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Diane M. Camberato, James J. Camberato and Roberto G. Lopez

Chemical plant growth regulators (PGRs) are important tools in greenhouse ornamental crop production because growers must increasingly meet specifications for plant shipping and marketability. However, the role of water quality parameters such as pH or alkalinity (bicarbonate in this study) on final PGR solution pH is not well documented and could impact efficacy. We assessed the interaction of PGR type and concentration on the final spray solution pH when combined with carrier water of varying pH and bicarbonate concentration. Eleven PGRs commonly used in floriculture (ancymidol, benzyladenine, chlormequat chloride, daminozide, dikegulac-sodium, ethephon, flurprimidol, gibberellic acid, gibberellic acid/benzyladenine, paclobutrazol, and uniconazole) at three concentrations (low, medium, and high recommended rates for each product) were added to reverse osmosis (RO) carrier water adjusted to four pH (5.3, 6.2, 7.2, 8.2) levels or added to tap carrier water adjusted to four bicarbonate concentrations (40, 86, 142, 293 mg·L−1 of CaCO3). Resultant solution pH levels were measured. Plant growth regulators were categorized as acidic, neutral, or basic in reaction based on the change of the carrier water pH on their addition. Benzyladenine, chlormequat chloride, gibberellic acid, and gibberellic acid/benzyladenine acted as weak acids when added to RO water, whereas daminozide, ethephon, and uniconazole reduced final solution pH from 1.25 to 5.75 pH units. Flurprimidol and paclobutrazol were neutral in reaction with final solution pH being similar to that of the RO carrier water before their addition. Ancymidol and dikegulac-sodium were basic in reaction, increasing final solution pH in RO carrier water up to 2.3 units. There was an interaction between chlormequat chloride concentration and RO carrier water pH on change in pH. When added to tap carrier water, final solution pH increased for all except the stronger acids, daminozide, ethephon, and uniconazole, where it decreased up to 3.5 units, and benzyladenine, where it decreased 0.35 units at 40 mg·L−1 bicarbonate. There was an interaction between PGR concentration and bicarbonate concentration in tap carrier water for daminozide and ethephon. The magnitude of change in pH (final solution pH minus initial carrier water pH) with the addition of each PGR was greater for RO than for tap water containing 40 to 293 mg·L−1 bicarbonate for all 11 PGRs tested.

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Diane M. Camberato, James J. Camberato and Roberto G. Lopez

Four complete water-soluble fertilizer (WSF) formulations including micronutrients applied at 200 mg·L−1 nitrogen (N) at each irrigation [Peters Excel (21N–2.2P–16.5K), Daniels (10N–1.8P–2.5K), Peters Professional (15N–1.3P–20.8K), and Jack’s Professional (20N–1.3P–15.7K)] were compared with two controlled-release fertilizer (CRF) products (also containing micronutrients) substrate incorporated at transplant at a rate of 3000 g·m−3 of substrate [Osmocote Plus (15N–4P–9.9K, 90 to 120 days longevity at 21 °C) and Osmocote Bloom (12N–3.1P–15K, 60 to 90 days longevity at 21 °C)] in the greenhouse production of four commonly produced bedding plant species with high alkalinity irrigation water (pH 7.1, 280 mg·L−1 CaCO3 equivalent). Species included Argyranthemum frutescens (L.) Sch. Bip. ‘Madeira Cherry Red’ and iron-inefficient Calibrachoa Cerv. hybrid ‘Cabaret Pink Hot’, Diascia barberae Hook. f. ‘Wink Coral’, and Sutera cordata Roth ‘Abunda Giant White’. Additional treatments included a combination of 100 mg·L−1 Excel and 2100 g·m−3 Osmocote Plus and an Osmocote Plus treatment irrigated with reduced alkalinity water (acidified to pH 6.3, 92 mg·L−1 CaCO3 equivalent). Bedding plants were evaluated at the end of a finish or market stage (3 or 5 weeks depending on species) for shoot dry mass (SDM) and root dry mass (RDM), tissue nutrient concentrations, and visual quality rating (0 to 4). At 3 weeks, there were no significant differences in SDM and RDM between fertilizer treatments for any of the four species. Shoot dry mass significantly increased at 5 weeks in the WSF and combination treatments over the three CRF only treatments for Argyranthemum and over the non-acidified Osmocote Plus treatment only for Calibrachoa. At finish, 3 weeks for Sutera and Diascia and 5 weeks for Argyranthemum and Calibrachoa, visual quality rating for all species was lowest when using Osmocote Plus with or without acidified irrigation water compared with the WSF treatments, except the Daniels treatment in Argyranthemum, which also resulted in a low visual quality rating. Leaf tissue N for all species and phosphorus (P) for all except Diascia were below the recommended range for bedding plant crops in the CRF treatments, which was reflected by the lower substrate electrical conductivity (EC) for the CRF alone and combination treatments. Leaf tissue N and P were related to visual quality rating for all species, leaf tissue potassium (K) for Argyranthemum and Calibrachoa only, and leaf tissue iron (Fe) for Diascia only.

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James J. Camberato and S. Bruce Martin

Bermudagrass (Cynodon sp.) greens are overseeded annually with rough bluegrass (Poa trivialis L.) in the coastal southeastern United States, where irrigation water is often saline. Salinity may slow seed germination and delay turf establishment. Cultivar and seed lot differences in sensitivity to salinity may be substantial. Our objective was to determine the effects of salinity on germination of commercially available rough bluegrass cultivars and seed lots. To accomplish this, we examined the effects of salinity (0, 1.8, 3.4, and 5.0 dS·m-1 established with NaCl in deionized water) on germination of 33 cultivars/seed lots of rough bluegrass in vitro. Fifty seeds of each cultivar/seed lot were placed on pre-moistened germination paper in petri dishes, sealed with parafilm, and placed in growth chambers with 12-hours light/12-hours dark at 20/10 °C, respectively. Germination was scored from 4 to 25 days after seed placement. Rough bluegrass germination rate varied among cultivars/seed lots, ranging from less than three seeds/day to nearly seven seeds/day. Salinity slowed rough bluegrass germination rate from about six seeds/day at 0 dS·m-1 to five seeds/day at 5 dS·m-1. Increasing salinity reduced early germination of some cultivar/seed lots more than that of others. Impact was substantial in three cultivar/seed lots, where early germination at 5.0 dS·m-1 was less than 15% of that at 0 dS·m-1. For most cultivar/seed lots, the reduction in early germination with salinity at 5.0 dS·m-1 was about 50% of that at 0 dS·m-1. Final germination was reduced only 3% by increasing salinity. In view of differences in germination rate and response to salinity among seed lots of rough bluegrass cultivars, we suggest the planting of multiple cultivars and seed lots of rough bluegrass to insure rapid establishment.

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Andreas Westphal, Nicole L. Snyder, Lijuan Xing and James J. Camberato

Watermelon, Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum. & Nakai, crops are continuously exposed to soilborne diseases. In many areas of the United States, greenhouse-raised watermelon seedlings are transplanted to the field to allow for early crop establishment and early fruit production. This practice can result in weakened root systems, which potentially make the plant prone to premature senescence and reduce crop productivity. Mycorrhizal fungi have been reported to improve plant growth in many crops through enhanced root growth and function. We hypothesized that amending potting mixes with commercial inocula of mycorrhizal fungi during seeding of watermelon in a greenhouse would improve watermelon production when seedlings were transplanted to the field. Colonization of watermelon roots with mycorrhizal fungi from three commercial formulations was compared with the colonization of onion roots to confirm the efficacy of the mycorrhizae. Two inocula of mycorrhizal fungi that resulted in colonization of watermelon roots were tested in the field and glasshouse for their potential to improve watermelon production. MycoApply improved early plant growth in two tests, one under Meloidogyne incognita-infested conditions in loamy sand and another at two phosphorus fertilizer levels (0 or 22 kg·ha−1 P) in a loam soil. Mycor Vam Mini plug improved early fruit yield in soil infested with M. incognita. Application of Myconate (formononetin), a potential enhancer of colonization with mycorrhizae, increased early fruit yield in M. incognita-infested soil. Myconate had positive effects when potting mixes were not amended with inoculum of mycorrhizal fungi, but reduced watermelon growth when mycorrhizal fungi were supplied in the potting mix. In glasshouse tests, inoculation with mycorrhizal fungi did not suppress disease. Mycorrhizal fungi inoculations improved early plant establishment and increased the most valuable early fruit yield under some environmental stress conditions but did not increase total fruit yields.

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Zhongjie Ji, James J. Camberato, Cankui Zhang and Yiwei Jiang

Plant growth regulators (PGRs) can mediate plant response to salinity stress. Perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) cultivars of BrightStar SLT, Catalina, Inspire, and SR4660ST were exposed to 0, 100, or 200 mm NaCl for 14 d. 6-benzyladenine (6-BA, 10 µm), γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA, 500 µm), nitric oxide (NO, 200 µm), and H2O were applied to the foliage every day for 3 days before stress and then every 2 days during salinity stress. Averaged across the four cultivars, a foliar spray of NO increased leaf fresh weight (FW) and dry weight (DW) at 0 mm NaCl, whereas application of 6-BA increased DW and GABA reduced Na+ concentration at 100 mm NaCl, compared with H2O application. Plants treated with 6-BA, GABA, and NO had less chlorotic and necrotic leaf tissue than plants treated with H2O at 200 mm NaCl. Spray of 6-BA and NO increased FW and DW, but application of all three PGRs maintained higher leaf photochemical efficiency and lower leaf Na+ concentration compared with H2O treatment at 200 mm NaCl. Across salinity and PGR treatments, ‘Catalina’ exhibited higher plant height than the ‘Inspire’ and SR4660ST, and SR4660ST had relatively higher Na+ concentration than ‘Catalina’ but not ‘BrightStar SLT’ and ‘Inspire’. The results demonstrate that 6-BA, GABA, and NO ameliorated salinity tolerance of perennial ryegrass by improving growth and photochemical efficiency or reducing Na+ accumulation.

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B. Todd Bunnell, Lambert B. McCarty, Roy B. Dodd, Hoke S. Hill and James J. Camberato

Increased soil moisture and temperature along with increased soil microbial and root activity during summer months elevate soil CO2 levels. Although previous research has demonstrated negative effects of high soil CO2 on growth of some plants, little is known concerning the impact high CO2 levels on creeping bentgrass (Agrostis palustris Huds.). The objective of this study was to investigate effects of varying levels of CO2 on the growth of creeping bentgrass. Growth cells were constructed to U.S. Golf Association (USGA) greens specification and creeping bentgrass was grown in the greenhouse. Three different levels of CO2 (2.5%, 5.0%, and 10.0%) were injected (for 1 minute every 2 hours) into the growth cells at a rate of 550 cm3·min-1. An untreated check, which did not have a gas mixture injected, maintained a CO2 concentration <1%. Gas injection occurred for 20 days to represent a run. Two runs were performed during the summer of 1999 on different growth cells. Visual turf quality ratings, encompassing turf color, health, density, and uniformity, were evaluated every 4 days on a 1-9 scale, with 9 = best turf and <7 being unacceptable. Soil cores were taken at the end of each run. Roots were separated from soil to measure root depth and mass. Turf quality was reduced to unacceptable levels with 10% CO2, but was unaffected at lower levels over the 20-day treatment period. Soil CO2 ≥2.5% reduced root mass and depth by 40% and 10%, respectively.

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Chunhua Liu, James J. Camberato, S. Bruce Martin and Amy V. Turner

Rough bluegrass (Poa trivialis L.) is being utilized more frequently to overseed bermudagrass [Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers. × C. transvaalensis Burtt-Davy] putting greens and rapid seed germination is necessary for successful establishment. Cultivar and seed lot differences in germination rate and sensitivity to cold may exist. Germination of 10 rough bluegrass cultivars/seed lots was examined in growth chambers at 12-hour day/12-hour night temperatures of 25/15, 20/10, 15/5, and 10/0 °C, and on a bermudagrass putting green at three overseeding dates. Differences in germination among cultivars and seed lots were minimal at 25/15 or 20/10 °C, but substantial at lower temperatures. When seeded on the bermudagrass putting green, differences in germination among cultivars/seed lots were greater at the last seeding date (average daily max./min. of 16/2.7 °C), than at the first seeding dates (average daily max./min. of 21/6.1 °C). Use of blends of several cultivars or seed lots is suggested to ensure the successful establishment of rough bluegrass when overseeding at low temperatures.

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Michael V. Mickelbart, Michael J. Gosney, James Camberato and Kelly M. Stanton

The North American native plants Spiraea alba and S. tomentosa have potential as landscape plants because they are small- to medium-sized shrubs with showy flowers that persist from early to late summer. However, the cultural requirements of these species are not well documented. Both species grow in slightly acidic soils in their native habitats. The objective of this work was to determine if the growth and/or appearance of these shrubs is affected by the neutral to slightly alkaline soils common throughout the Midwest. Spiraea alba grown from three seed sources and S. tomentosa grown from a single seed source were grown for 2 years in soils of different pH. Elemental sulfur (S) was incorporated into a Drummer silty clay loam with a pH of 7.2 to bring the pH to 5.8 and 6.4 2 years after incorporation, thus establishing plots with three pH levels for assessing growth and appearance. The soil pH increased to 6.4 and 6.8 in the amended plots between Years 2 and 3 after S incorporation. Soil concentrations of exchangeable magnesium (Mg) and calcium (Ca) were lowered with added S. Height and width varied among S. alba from different seed sources, and height and width of all plants were reduced when grown at the highest soil pH. Leaf greenness, specific leaf weight, and individual leaf area were unaffected by pH. Leaf concentrations of nitrogen, potassium, zinc, and manganese were higher in lower soil pH, whereas Mg was lowest at the lowest soil pH. These results suggest that S. alba and S. tomentosa can be grown in neutral pH soils without an effect on plant appearance, but plant size will be less than at pH levels closer to the native soils for these species. Although some micronutrients were present at lower concentrations at the neutral pH, leaf greenness was unaffected, again suggesting that these plants may perform suitably outside of their native habitat pH range.