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Joshua R. Gerovac, Roberto G. Lopez and Neil S. Mattson

Commercial bedding plant production in northern latitudes often begins in late winter and continues through spring, when average outdoor temperatures require growers to actively heat their greenhouses (GHs). High tunnels (HTs) offer energy savings as they are passively heated and cooled structures that have a low initial cost. As a result, they have been used in northern latitudes to advance and extend the growing season and improve the quality of high-value horticultural crops. However, there is limited published information on growing bedding plants in HTs in northern latitudes. Our objectives were to quantify the effects of transplant date in an HT with or without a rowcover (RC) compared with a traditional heated GH on the growth and morphology of three cold-tolerant bedding plant species at two northern latitude locations, Purdue University (Purdue) and Cornell University (Cornell). Seedlings of snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus L. ‘Liberty Classic Yellow’), dianthus (Dianthus chinensis L. ‘Telstar Crimson’), and petunia (Petunia ×hybrida Vilm.-Andr. ‘Wave Pink’) were transplanted on weeks 13, 14, and 15 in 2012 (Purdue) and 2013 (both locations) and moved to either a glass-glazed GH or an HT without (HT) or with a rowcover (HT+RC). Several quality measurements increased when plants were grown in the HT compared with those grown in the GH. Dianthus and petunia transplanted at Purdue during week 13 in the HT and HT+RC were 33% and 47% shorter and had 51% and 31% more visible buds, respectively, compared with those grown in the GH. Similarly, petunia transplanted at Cornell during week 13 in the HT and HT+RC were 45% and 43% shorter, respectively, than their GH counterparts. The shoot dry mass of dianthus and snapdragon at Purdue was significantly higher when grown in the HT compared with the GH, regardless of transplant week or the use of RC likely because of increased daily light integral (DLI) in the HT environment. There was about a 1-week delay from transplant to first open flower for week 13 dianthus (at Purdue) and petunia (at both locations) when finished in the HT or HT+RC vs. their GH counterparts. Such a delay would be acceptable to growers who want to reduce the use of chemical growth regulators and heating costs. However, at both locations snapdragon transplanted on week 13 to the HT or HT+RC environments were delayed by 22 to 26 days compared with the GH. A delay of over 3 weeks could interfere with a grower’s production schedule, possibly making this crop unsuitable for production in northern latitude HTs.

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Joshua R. Gerovac, Joshua K. Craver, Jennifer K. Boldt and Roberto G. Lopez

Multilayer vertical production systems using sole-source (SS) lighting can be used for the production of microgreens; however, traditional SS lighting methods can consume large amounts of electrical energy. Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) offer many advantages over conventional light sources, including high photoelectric conversion efficiencies, narrowband spectral light quality (LQ), low thermal output, and adjustable light intensities (LIs). The objective of this study was to quantify the effects of SS LEDs of different light qualities and intensities on growth, morphology, and nutrient content of Brassica microgreens. Purple kohlrabi (Brassica oleracea L. var. gongylodes L.), mizuna (Brassica rapa L. var. japonica), and mustard [Brassica juncea (L.) Czern. ‘Garnet Giant’] were grown in hydroponic tray systems placed on multilayer shelves in a walk-in growth chamber. A daily light integral (DLI) of 6, 12, or 18 mol·m−2·d−1 was achieved from commercially available SS LED arrays with light ratios (%) of red:green:blue 74:18:8 (R74:G18:B8), red:blue 87:13 (R87:B13), or red:far-red:blue 84:7:9 (R84:FR7:B9) with a total photon flux (TPF) from 400 to 800 nm of 105, 210, or 315 µmol·m−2·s−1 for 16 hours. Regardless of LQ, as the LI increased from 105 to 315 µmol·m−2·s−1, hypocotyl length (HL) decreased and percent dry weight (DW) increased for kohlrabi, mizuna, and mustard microgreens. With increasing LI, leaf area (LA) of kohlrabi generally decreased and relative chlorophyll content (RCC) increased. In addition, nutrient content increased under low LIs regardless of LQ. The results from this study can help growers to select LIs and LQs from commercially available SS LEDs to achieve preferred growth characteristics of Brassica microgreens.

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Joshua K. Craver, Joshua R. Gerovac, Roberto G. Lopez and Dean A. Kopsell

Multilayer vertical production systems using sole-source (SS) light-emitting diodes (LEDs) can be an alternative to more traditional methods of microgreens production. One significant benefit of using LEDs is the ability to select light qualities that have beneficial impacts on plant morphology and the synthesis of health-promoting phytochemicals. Therefore, the objective of this study was to quantify the impacts of SS LEDs of different light qualities and intensities on the phytochemical content of brassica (Brassica sp.) microgreens. Specifically, phytochemical measurements included 1) total anthocyanins, 2) total and individual carotenoids, 3) total and individual chlorophylls, and 4) total phenolics. Kohlrabi (Brassica oleracea var. gongylodes), mustard (Brassica juncea ‘Garnet Giant’), and mizuna (Brassica rapa var. japonica) were grown in hydroponic tray systems placed on multilayer shelves in a walk-in growth chamber. A daily light integral (DLI) of 6, 12, or 18 mol·m−2·d−1 was achieved from SS LED arrays with light ratios (percent) of red:blue 87:13 (R87:B13), red:far-red:blue 84:7:9 (R84:FR7:B9), or red:green:blue 74:18:8 (R74:G18:B8) with a total photon flux from 400 to 800 nm of 105, 210, or 315 µmol·m−2·s–1 for 16 hours, respectively. Phytochemical measurements were collected using spectrophotometry and high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). Regardless of light quality, total carotenoids were significantly lower under increasing light intensities for mizuna and mustard microgreens. In addition, light quality affected total integrated chlorophyll with higher values observed under the light ratio of R87:B13 compared with R84:FR7:B9 and R74:G18:B8 for kohlrabi and mustard microgreens, respectively. For kohlrabi, with increasing light intensities, the total concentration of anthocyanins was greater compared with those grown under lower light intensities. In addition, for kohlrabi, the light ratios of R87:B13 or R84:FR7:B9 produced significantly higher anthocyanin concentrations compared with the light ratio of R74:G18:B8 under a light intensity of 315 µmol·m−2·s−1. Light quality also influenced the total phenolic concentration of kohlrabi microgreens, with significantly greater levels for the light ratio of R84:FR7:B9 compared with R74:G18:B8 under a light intensity of 105 µmol·m−2·s−1. However, the impact of light intensity on total phenolic concentration of kohlrabi was not significant. The results from this study provide further insight into the selection of light qualities and intensities using SS LEDs to achieve preferred phytochemical content of brassica microgreens.