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Geoffrey Weaver and Marc W. van Iersel

Plant light use efficiency decreases as light intensity is increased, and a better understanding of crop-specific light responses can contribute to the development of more energy-efficient supplemental lighting control strategies for greenhouses. In this study, diurnal chlorophyll fluorescence monitoring was used to characterize the photochemical responses of ‘Green Towers’ lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.) to photosynthetic photon flux density (PPFD) and daily light integral (DLI) in a greenhouse during a production cycle. Plants were monitored continuously for 35 days, with chlorophyll fluorescence measurements collected once every 15 minutes. Quantum yield of photosystem II (ΦPSII) decreased exponentially with PPFD, whereas electron transport rate (ETR) increased asymptotically to 121 µmol·m–2·s–1. Daily photochemical integral (DPI) is defined as the integral of ETR over a 24-hour period; DPI increased asymptotically to 3.29 mol·m–2·d–1 with increasing DLI. No effects of plant age or prior day’s DLI and a negligible effect of PPFDs 15 or 30 minutes before measurements within days were observed. Simulations were conducted using the regression equation of ETR as a function of PPFD {ETR = 121[1 – exp(–0.00277PPFD)]} to illustrate methods of increasing photochemical light use efficiency for improved supplemental lighting control strategies. For a given DLI, DPI can be increased by providing light at lower PPFDs for a longer period of time, and can be maximized by providing light with a uniform PPFD throughout the entire photoperiod. Similarly, the DLI required to achieve a given DPI is reduced using these same methods.

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Geoffrey M. Weaver and Marc W. van Iersel

Physiological antitranspirants can reduce financial risks to growers by temporarily preventing drought stress, improving product quality, and extending the shelf life of ornamental bedding plants. Exogenous abscisic acid (ABA) is an effective antitranspirant that induces stomatal closure in a rate-dependent manner, reducing transpirational water loss in many species. However, it may also cause chlorosis, which reduces product quality. Synthetic ABA analogs have similar effects on stomatal conductance (g S) but are not known to induce chlorosis. We studied the effects of ABA and its analog 8′ acetylene ABA methyl-ester (PBI 429) on g S and net photosynthesis (Pn) in pansies (Viola ×wittrockiana), compared the efficacy and longevity of each compound, and quantified the resulting chlorosis. Plants were treated with spray solutions of ABA (0 to 2000 mg·L−1) and PBI 429 (0 to 200 mg·L−1) and irrigated daily. Gas exchange and leaf chlorophyll measurements were made twice weekly for 2 weeks. Additional measurements were taken once or twice weekly through 47 days. Abscisic acid reduced leaf chlorophyll content and Pn in a rate-dependent manner for 14 days after application but reduced g S for only 11 days, whereas PBI 429 reduced Pn and g S similarly for 7 days and did not reduce leaf chlorophyll content. Reductions in g S and Pn were greatest on the first day after treatment for both compounds. Our results demonstrate that ABA is more effective than PBI 429 at 100 and 200 mg·L−1, but also causes chlorosis, whereas PBI 429 is an effective antitranspirant without this phytotoxic effect.

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Michael T. Martin Jr., Geoffrey M. Weaver, Matthew R. Chappell and Jerry Davis

A study was conducted to observe changes in mineral element concentrations within different sections of leafy stem cuttings of Hibiscus acetosella ‘Panama Red’ (PP20121) during a 21-day propagation period under standard industry propagation conditions. Concentrations of 13 mineral elements were analyzed in leaves, lower stems (below substrate), upper stems (above substrate), and roots at 3-day intervals. Before root emergence (day 0–6), P, K, Zn, Ca, and Mg concentrations decreased in the shoots (including upper stems and leaves), whereas Zn, Ca, and B concentrations decreased in the lower stems. Sulfur increase occurred in lower stems before root emergence. After rooting (day 9–21), N, P, Zn, Fe, Cu, and Ni concentrations decreased in the roots; K, S, B, and Mg concentrations increased. In the lower stems, N, P, K, S, and Zn concentrations decreased, whereas B increased. Potassium concentration decreased in the leaves; P, K, S, and Zn decreased in the upper stems. Calcium and Mg increased in leaves. This study indicates specific nutrients are important in adventitious rooting, and that it is important to analyze rooting as a function of fine-scale temporal measurements and fine-scale sectional measurements.

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Rhuanito Soranz Ferrarezi, Geoffrey Matthew Weaver, Marc W. van Iersel and Roberto Testezlaf

Subirrigation is a greenhouse irrigation method that relies on capillary action to provide plants with water and nutrients from below their containers. The first documented subirrigation system was described in 1895, and several variations on the basic design were used for research purposes before the modern ebb-and-flow type systems emerged in 1974. Most subirrigation systems apply the fertilizer solution to a waterproof bench or greenhouse section, allowing the substrate to absorb the water through holes in the bottom of the containers. Because there is little or no leaching, subirrigation typically allows for the use of lower fertilizer solution concentrations. Although excess fertilizer salts typically accumulate in the top layer of the substrate, this does not seem to have a negative impact on plants. Subirrigation can conserve nutrients and water, reduce labor costs, and help growers meet environmental regulations. A challenge with subirrigation is the potential spread of pathogens via the fertilizer solution. When this is a concern, effective disinfection methods such as ultraviolet radiation, chlorine, or ozone should be used. Sensor-based irrigation control has recently been applied to subirrigation to further improve nutrient and water use efficiencies. Better control of irrigation may help reduce the spread of pathogens, while at the same time improving crop quality. The primary economic benefit of subirrigation is the reduction in labor costs, which is the greatest expenditure for many growers.

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Jong-Goo Kang, Rhuanito Soranz Ferrarezi, Sue K. Dove, Geoffrey M. Weaver and Marc W. van Iersel

Abscisic acid (ABA) is a plant hormone involved in regulating stomatal responses to environmental stress. By inducing stomatal closure, applications of exogenous ABA can reduce plant water use and delay the onset of drought stress when plants are not watered. However, ABA can also cause unwanted side effects, including chlorosis. Pansy (Viola ×wittrockiana) has been shown to be particularly susceptible to ABA-induced chlorosis. The objective of this study was to determine if fertilization rate affects the severity of ABA-induced chlorosis in this species. ‘Delta Premium Pure Yellow’ pansy seedlings were fertilized with controlled-release fertilizer incorporated at rates from 0 to 8 g·L−1 of substrate. When plants had reached a salable size, half the plants were sprayed with a solution containing 1 g·L−1 ABA, whereas the other plants were sprayed with water. Leaf chlorophyll content was monitored for 2 weeks following ABA application. Leaf chlorophyll content increased greatly as fertilizer rate increased from 0 to 2 g·L−1, with little increase in leaf chlorophyll at even higher fertilizer rates. ABA induced chlorosis, irrespective of the fertilizer rate. Plant dry weight was lowest when no controlled-release fertilizer was incorporated, but similar in all fertilized treatments. ABA treatment reduced shoot dry weight by ≈24%, regardless of fertilization rate. This may be due to ABA-induced stomatal closure, which limits carbon dioxide (CO2) diffusion into the leaves. We conclude that ABA sprays induce chlorosis, regardless of which fertilizer rate is used. However, because leaf chlorophyll concentration increases with increasing fertilizer rates, higher fertilizer rates can mask ABA-induced chlorosis.

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Marc W. van Iersel, Geoffrey Weaver, Michael T. Martin, Rhuanito S. Ferrarezi, Erico Mattos and Mark Haidekker

Photosynthetic lighting is one of the main costs of running controlled environment agriculture facilities. To optimize photosynthetic lighting, it is important to understand how plants use the provided light. When photosynthetic pigments absorb photons, the energy from those photons is used to drive the light reactions of photosynthesis, thermally dissipated, or re-emitted by chlorophyll as fluorescence. Chlorophyll fluorescence measurements can be used to determine the quantum yield of photosystem II (ΦPSII) and nonphotochemical quenching (NPQ), which is indicative of the amount of absorbed light energy that is dissipated as heat. Our objective was to develop and test a biofeedback system that allows for the control of photosynthetic photon flux density (PPFD) based on the physiological performance of the plants. To do so, we used a chlorophyll fluorometer to measure ΦPSII, and used these data and PPFD to calculate the electron transport rate (ETR) through PSII. A datalogger then adjusted the duty cycle of the light-emitting diodes (LEDs) based on the ratio of the measured ETR to a predefined target ETR (ETRT). The biofeedback system was able to maintain ETRs of 70 or 100 µmol·m−2·s−1 over 16-hour periods in experiments conducted with lettuce (Lactuca sativa). With an ETRT of 70 µmol·m−2·s−1, ΦPSII was stable throughout the 16 hour and no appreciable changes in PPFD were needed. At an ETRT of 100 µmol·m−2·s−1, ΦPSII gradually decreased from 0.612 to 0.582. To maintain ETR at 100 µmol·m−2·s−1, PPFD had to be increased from 389 to 409 µmol·m−2·s−1, resulting in a gradual decrease of ΦPSII and an increase in NPQ. The ability of the biofeedback system to achieve a range of different ETRs within a single day was tested using lettuce, sweetpotato (Ipomoea batatas), and pothos (Epipremnum aureum). As the ETRT was gradually increased, the PPFD required to achieve that ETR also increased, whereas ΦPSII decreased. Surprisingly, a subsequent decrease in ETRT, and in the PPFD required to achieve that ETR, resulted in only a small increase in ΦPSII. This indicates that ΦPSII was reduced because of photoinhibition. Our results show that the biofeedback system is able to maintain a wide range of ETRs, while it also is capable of distinguishing between NPQ and photoinhibition as causes for decreases in ΦPSII.