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  • Author or Editor: Lloyd Nackley x
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Controlled-release fertilizers (CRFs) are water-soluble pellets of homo- or heterogenous mineral nutrients covered with polymer or resin that become increasingly porous as temperature increases, releasing water-soluble fertilizer through diffusion. An experiment was carried out at the North Willamette Research and Extension Center located in Aurora, OR, USA (lat. 45°16′51″N, long. 122°45′04″W) with six fertilizer concentrations of a CRF fertilizer that was designed to last 6 to 7 months at 70 °F. During the experiment, the Pacific Northwest experienced a series of early-summer (June) heatwaves that caused an unanticipated and excessive release of mineral salts. Extreme weather adaptation strategies are necessary to sustain horticultural production in a period with increased temperature volatility.

Open Access

Many consider tools for plant-based irrigation management methods to be the most precise way to manage irrigation in either a research or a commercial settings. Although many types of tools are available, they all measure some aspect of water movement along the soil–plant–atmosphere continuum. This article presents some of the more commonly used tools and the methods involved to properly employ them. In addition, recent literature is reviewed to provide context to the methods themselves and also to highlight each one’s specific advantages and disadvantages. Ultimately, there is no clear winner or “best” tool as all have disadvantages, either due to prohibitive cost, the amount of data output, the difficulty of data interpretation, lack of signal resolution, or lack of dynamic ability to provide decision support. Therefore, we conclude that the user should carefully weigh these varied advantages and disadvantages in the context of their production goals before deciding on a given tool for irrigation management.

Open Access

Characterization of leaf physiology is an important step for understanding the ecophysiology of a crop as well as for developing a process-based crop simulation model. We determined photosynthetic and transpiration responses to photosynthetic photon flux (PPF), carbon dioxide concentrations, and temperature, and parameterized a coupled leaf gas-exchange model for hardneck garlic (Allium sativum). The parameterized model performed with high accuracy and precision in predicting photosynthetic responses [r 2 = 0.95, bias = 1.7 μmol·m−2·s−1, root mean square error (RMSE) = 2.4 μmol·m−2·s−1] when tested against independent data that were not used for model calibration. The model performance for transpiration rates was less satisfactory (r 2 = 0.49, bias = –0.14 mmol·m−2·s−1, RMSE = 0.94 mmol·m−2·s−1). In addition, we characterized the relationships among chlorophyll meter readings, leaf photosynthetic capacity (A max), and leaf nitrogen content in garlic leaves. The chlorophyll meter readings were a reasonable indicator of both A max (r 2 = 0.61) and leaf nitrogen (N) status (r 2 = 0.51) for garlic leaves we studied. The garlic leaf gas-exchange model developed in this study can serve as a key component in ecophysiological crop models for garlic. Similarly, the quantitative relationship identified between chlorophyll meter readings and A max in this study can provide useful information for non-destructively assessing leaf photosynthetic capacity in garlic.

Free access

This study reviews how mini-lysimeters have been used effectively to optimize irrigation control in container horticulture production. Lysimeters are devices that measure evapotranspiration (ET) from the water balance of a fixed soil volume. The primary components of lysimeter-controlled irrigation are load cell sensors, a multiplexer, a data logger, a controller, and solenoid valves. The two common mini-lysimeter systems are platform lysimeters and suspension lysimeters. In these systems, a bending-beam single-point load cell is fastened between two plates, and a container is placed directly on the top platform. Platform lysimeters are commonly used for smaller pot sizes, and suspension lysimeters have been used for large shade trees up to 2.8 m tall and weighing 225 kg. Mini-lysimeters have been used for decades to calibrate ET models and create on-demand irrigation control programs that replenish plant daily water use or maintain deficit conditions. Research has demonstrated that lysimeter-based irrigation can respond more effectively to seasonal and diurnal variations in water demand, increasing irrigation cycles when evaporative demand is high, and decreasing irrigation cycles when demand is low. A strength of these systems is that for containerized plants, such as nursery production systems, mini-lysimeters capture whole-plant water use, which presents a more holistic measure compared with soil moisture sensors or leaf moisture sensors.

Open Access

Garlic (Allium sativum) is a commercially and culturally important crop worldwide. Despite the importance of garlic, there have been few studies investigating how garlic growth and development will be affected by the atmospheric enrichment of carbon dioxide (CO2). A split-plot experiment with CO2 concentrations as main plot and nitrogen (N) fertilization as subplot was carried out to examine the effects of elevated CO2 at (mean ± sd) 745 ± 63 µmol·mol−1 across three levels of N: high-N (16.0 mm), mid-N (4.0 mm), and low-N (1.0 mm). Three hypotheses were tested: 1) garlic plants will allocate proportionally more biomass to bulb when grown in elevated CO2 compared with the plants grown in ambient CO2; 2) plants will sustain improved photosynthesis without downregulation in elevated CO2, irrespective of N; and 3) elevated CO2 will improve plant water use efficiency (WUE) across N fertilization levels. We found that proportional biomass allocation to bulb was not significantly enhanced by CO2 enrichment in garlic. Overall biomass accumulation represented by leaf, stem, and bulb did not respond significantly to CO2 enrichment but responded strongly to N treatments (P < 0.001). Contrary to our hypothesis, photosynthetic downregulation was apparent for garlic plants grown in elevated CO2 with a decrease in Rubisco capacity (P < 0.01). Instantaneous leaf WUE improved in response to elevated CO2 (P < 0.001) and also with increasing N fertilization (P < 0.001). Finally, our results indicate that bulbing ratio is likely to remain unchanged with CO2 or N levels and may continue to serve as a useful nondesctructive metric to estimate harvest timing and bulb size.

Free access

Widespread outbreaks of tomato powdery mildew (Leveillula taurica and Oidium neolycopersici) are problematic in fresh market tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) crops in western Oregon, USA. In western Oregon, fresh market tomatoes are frequently grown in greenhouses or high tunnels where conditions can promote diseases such as powdery mildew. Heightened concerns about worker safety limit the pesticides available for use in enclosed systems. We studied the efficacy of ultraviolet-C (UV-C) light applications under high-tunnel conditions compared with a standard fungicide program. Plants treated with UV-C had zero incidence of powdery mildew on all sample dates in the first trial. In trial 2, disease incidence was lower on UV-C treated plants than both grower standard and nontreated control early in the study while disease severity remained lower in UV-C than nontreated control and similar to grower standard treatment. Additional research is needed to optimize UV-C treatment intervals to minimize negative effects on plant growth and maximize powdery mildew control.

Open Access

To optimize pesticide applications to the canopies of deciduous perennial crops, spray volume should be adjusted throughout the year to match the changes in canopy volume and density. Machine-vision, computer-controlled, variable-rate sprayers are now commercially available and claim to provide adequate coverage with decreased spray volumes compared with constant-rate sprayers. However, there is little research comparing variable- and constant-rate spray applications as crop characteristics change throughout a growing season. This study evaluated spray volume, spray quality (e.g., coverage and deposit density), and off-target spray losses of variable- and constant-rate sprayers across multiple phenophases in an apple (Malus domestica) orchard and a grape (Vitis vinifera) vineyard. The variable-rate sprayer mode applied 67% to 74% less volume in the orchard and 61% to 80% less volume in the vineyard. Spray coverage (percent), measured by water-sensitive cards (WSC), was consistently greater in the constant-rate mode compared with the variable-rate mode, but in many cases, excessive coverage (i.e., over-spray) was recorded. The variable-rate sprayer reduced off-target losses, measured by WSC coverage, up to 40% in the orchard and up to 33% in the vineyard. Spray application deposit densities (droplets per square centimeter) on target canopies were typically greater in variable-rate mode. However, the deposit densities were confounded in over-spray conditions because droplets coalesced on the WSC resulting in artificially low values (i.e., few, very large droplets). Spray efficiencies were most improved early in the growing season, when canopy density was lowest, demonstrating the importance of tailoring spray volume to plant canopy characteristics.

Open Access

Potted poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) is an important commercial commodity for the U.S. floriculture industry. The production of poinsettia demands intensively managed light control, heat, fertilizer, and water; inhibiting elongation with plant growth regulators, and protecting plants from diseases and pests with pesticide applications. Excessive irrigation creates pollution, promotes disease, and is expensive. Sensor-based control systems can optimize irrigation schedules. Irrigation management is crucial in nursery production of poinsettias because water is a limited resource and agricultural runoff is monitored in many states across the United States. By pairing environmental sensors with sensors that continuously monitor plant transpiration, we can determine how plant water use and water stress fluctuate with environmental and physiological demands. We hypothesized that continual measurements of sap flow could be correlated with environmental sensors to develop a new water stress index (WSI), which can deliver the benefits of detecting water stress that might affect the quality of potted poinsettias. To test this hypothesis, rooted cuttings of poinsettia (E. pulcherrima cv. Prestige Red) were individually potted into twelve 11-L black plastic nursery pots. Potted plants were grown in a naturally illuminated temperature-controlled glasshouse. The 12 plants were randomly assigned one of three watering treatments: weekly, biweekly, and triweekly irrigation. From the data collected, we were able to create a WSI that correlated available soil moisture with the difference between the expected transpiration with actual transpiration rates. Our results suggest that the plants in the weekly treatment group did not experience water stress until 0.3 m3·m–3 volume water content indicated by <0.2 WSI. These results support previous research that found 0.1 to 0.3 m3·m–3 can be stressful soil moisture conditions for greenhouse-grown crops. Results also show that for substrates with similar substrates that irrigation set points can be reduced to 0.2 m3·m–3 for improved irrigation efficiency.

Open Access

US nurseries are experiencing a workforce shortage that is expected to intensify. A mixed-mode survey of decision-makers representing the US nursery industry was conducted in 2021. The survey assessed practices used in 2020 to elicit a better understanding of nursery approaches to the challenges presented by persistent labor scarcity. We compare our results with survey data collected ∼15 years earlier at container nurseries. Survey responses revealed that nurseries were undertaking strategies that aimed to improve production efficiency, better recruit and retain employees, and secure other sources of labor to overcome this shortage. Specifically, more than 65% of surveyed US nurseries increased worker wages, and more than 55% of respondents adopted automation to address the labor shortage. Strategies in use by ≥23% of respondents may limit future growth or jeopardize long-term nursery survival. These include diversifying tasks of current employees, reducing production of labor-intensive plants, or delaying expansion plans. Survey results suggested that production tasks excluding irrigation were on average 31% automated or mechanized at container nurseries, an increase from 16% during the prior survey. Field nurseries were 35% automated or mechanized in 2020. Newly developed or yet-to-be developed automated and mechanized technology (AMT) that decision-makers perceive as being helpful were reported. This article explores linkages between nursery characteristics and AMT adoption and highlights research and extension programming initiatives that are needed to help growers make informed decisions regarding adopting automation.

Open Access

Increased urban and suburban populations in the arid western United States have resulted in more water demand; however, water availability in the region has become limited because of inadequate precipitation. Recent droughts have led to restrictions on irrigating landscape plants. Garden rose (Rosa ×hybrida) is commonly used as flowering plants in residential landscapes, but its drought tolerance has not been widely studied. The objective of this study was to determine the impact of reduced irrigation frequency on visual quality, plant growth, and physiology of five garden rose cultivars, including ChewPatout (Oso Easy® Urban Legend®), Meibenbino (Petite Knock Out®), MEIRIFTDAY (Oso Easy® Double Pink), Overedclimb (Cherry Frost™), and Radbeauty (Sitting Pretty™). Twenty-four plants of each rose cultivar were established in a trial plot at Utah Agricultural Experiment Station Greenville Research Farm (North Logan, UT, USA) in Summer 2021. Plants were randomly assigned to one of three deficit irrigation treatments for which irrigation frequencies were calculated using 80% reference evapotranspiration (ETO) (high), 50% ETO (medium), and 20% ETO (low). The total volumes of irrigation water applied to each plant were 345.6, 172.8, and 43.2 L for the high, medium, and low irrigation frequencies, respectively, during the deficit irrigation trial from 12 May to 30 Sep 2022. Root zones were wetted more frequently as irrigation frequency increased from low to high irrigation frequencies. Decreased irrigation frequency increased the number of visibly wilted and damaged leaves on all rose cultivars. However, only ‘Meibenbino’ and ‘MEIRIFTDAY’ exhibited a reduction in overall appearance under decreased irrigation frequency. The relative growth indices of both ‘Meibenbino’ and ‘MEIRIFTDAY’ decreased by 6%, whereas the dry weights of their leaves decreased by 37% and 36%, respectively, as irrigation decreased from high to low frequencies. Roses in this study appeared to decrease stomatal conductance up to 51% when irrigation decreased from high to low frequencies, or when air temperature increased. ‘Meibenbino’ and ‘MEIRIFTDAY’ exhibited unacceptable overall appearance, growth reduction, and higher leaf–air temperature differences, and they were less tolerant to reduced irrigation. Although the ‘Radbeauty’ maintained plant growth under the reduced irrigation frequency, the large leaf size led to a more visibly wilted appearance and the potential for heat stress, thus impairing visual quality. ‘ChewPatout’ and ‘Overedclimb’ were most tolerant to deficit irrigation at 20% ETO and maintained plant growth with acceptable visual quality and lower leaf temperatures when they received one irrigation during the growing season.

Open Access