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M. Kate Lee and Marc W. van Iersel

As a result of the decreasing availability of high-quality irrigation water, salinity tolerance of greenhouse crops is of increasing importance. Saline irrigation water can have many negative effects on plants, but also has the potential to act as a growth regulator because of its ability to reduce plant height. To determine the effects of NaCl in the irrigation water on the growth, physiology, and nutrient uptake of chrysanthemums (Chrysanthemum ×morifolium Ramat.), plants were watered with solutions with different NaCl concentrations (0, 1, 3, 6, or 9 g·L−1). Plants receiving 9 g·L−1 NaCl had a 76% reduction in shoot dry weight, a 90% reduction in stomatal conductance (g S), and a 4-day delay in flowering compared with control plants. Chrysanthemums receiving 1 g·L−1 NaCl had a 4-cm reduction in height with only a small reduction in shoot dry weight. Stomatal conductance and transpiration were reduced by more than 60% by NaCl concentrations of 1 g·L−1 as compared with control plants. The combination of a small reduction in dry weight and a large decrease in transpiration resulted in increased water use efficiency when plants received 1 g·L−1 NaCl. Concentrations of 3 g·L−1 NaCl or higher resulted in poor-quality plants either as a result of wilting of the leaves (3 g·L−1) or severely stunted plants (6 and 9 g·L−1). Our findings indicate that chrysanthemums can be grown successfully with 1 g·L−1 NaCl in the irrigation water without negative impacts on plant quality. This has important implications for the greenhouse industry as the availability of nonsaline water decreases. Saline water may be more readily available and can have the added benefit of reduced plant height, which is an important quality characteristic for floriculture crops.

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Krishna S. Nemali and M.W. van Iersel

The effect of increasing daily light integral (DLI; 5.3, 9.5, 14.4, and 19.4 mol·m-2·d-1) on photosynthesis and respiration of wax begonia (Begonia semperflorens-cultorum Hort.) was examined by measuring CO2 exchange rates (CER) for a period of 25 d in a whole-plant gas exchange system. Although plant growth rate (GR, increase in dry weight per day) increased linearly with increasing DLI, plants grown at low DLI (5.3 or 9.5 mol·m-2·d-1) respired more carbohydrates than were fixed in photosynthesis during the early growth period (13 and 4 d, respectively), resulting in a negative daily carbon gain (DCG) and GR. Carbon use efficiency [CUE, the ratio of carbon incorporated into the plant to C fixed in gross photosynthesis (Pg)] of plants grown at low DLI was low, since these plants used most of the C fixed in Pg for maintenance respiration (Rm), leaving few, if any, C for growth and growth respiration (Rg). Maintenance respiration accounted for a smaller fraction of the total respiration with increasing DLI. In addition, the importance of Rm in the carbon balance of the plants decreased over time, resulting in an increase in CUE. At harvest, crop dry weight (DWCROP) increased linearly with increasing DLI, due to the increased photosynthesis and CUE at high PPF.

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Marc W. van Iersel and Orville M. Lindstrom

Temperature-response curves for photosynthesis and respiration are useful in predicting the ability of plants to perform under different environmental conditions. Whole crop CO2 exchange rates of three magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora L.) cultivars (`MGTIG', `Little Gem', and `Claudia Wannamaker') were measured over a 25 °C temperature range. Plants were exposed to cool temperatures (13 °C day, 3 °C night) temperatures before the measurements. Net photosynthesis (Pnet) of all three cultivars increased from 3 to 15 °C and decreased again at higher temperatures. `MGTIG' had the highest and `Little Gem' the lowest Pnet, irrespective of temperature. The Q10 (relative increase in the rate of a process with a 10 °C increase in temperature) for Pnet of all three cultivars decreased over the entire temperature range. `MGTIG' had the lowest Q10 at low temperatures (1.4 at 8 °C), while `Little Gem' had the lowest Q10 for Pnet at temperatures >17 °C and a negative Q10 > 23 °C. This indicates a rapid decline in Pnet of `Little Gem' at high temperatures. The decrease in Pnet of all three cultivars at temperatures >15 °C was caused mainly by an exponential increase in dark respiration (Rdark) with increasing temperature. `Little Gem' had a lower Rdark (per unit fresh mass) than `MGTIG' or `Claudia Wannamaker', but all three cultivars had a similar Q10 (2.46). Gross photosynthesis (Pgross) was less sensitive to temperature than Pnet and Rdark. The optimal temperature for Pgross of `MGTIG' was lower (19 °C) than those of `Little Gem' (21 °C) and `Claudia Wannamaker' (22 °C). The Q10 for Pgross decreased with increasing temperature, and was lower for `MGTIG' than for `Little Gem' and `Claudia Wannamaker'. All three cultivars had the same optimal temperature (11 °C) for net assimilation rate (NAR), and NAR was not very sensitive to temperature changes from 3 to 17 °C. This indicates that the plants were well-adapted to their environmental conditions. The results suggest that respiration rate may limit magnolia growth when temperatures get high in winter time.

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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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M.W. van Iersel and B. Bugbee

Long-term, whole-crop CO2 exchange measurements can be used to study factors affecting crop growth. These factors include daily carbon gain, cumulative carbon gain, and carbon use efficiency, which cannot be determined from short-term measurements. We describe a system that measures semicontinuously crop CO2 exchange in 10 chambers over a period of weeks or months. Exchange of CO2 in every chamber can be measured at 5 min intervals. The system was designed to be placed inside a growth chamber, with additional environmental control provided by the individual gas exchange chambers. The system was calibrated by generating CO2 from NaHCO3 inside the chambers, which indicated that accuracy of the measurements was good (102% and 98% recovery for two separate photosynthesis systems). Since the systems measure net photosynthesis (Pnet, positive) and dark respiration (Rdark, negative), the data can be used to estimate gross photosynthesis, daily carbon gain, cumulative carbon gain, and carbon use efficiency. Continuous whole-crop measurements are a valuable tool that complements leaf photosynthesis measurements. Multiple chambers allow for replication and comparison among several environmental or cultural treatments that may affect crop growth. Example data from a 2 week study with petunia (Petunia ×hybrida Hort. Vilm.-Andr.) are presented to illustrate some of the capabilities of this system.

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Amanda M. Miller, Marc W. van Iersel and Allan M. Armitage

Light and temperature responses of whole-plant CO2 exchange were determined for two cultivars of Angelonia angustifolia Benth., `AngelMist Purple Stripe' and `AngelMist Deep Plum'. Whole crop net photosynthesis (Pnet) of `AngelMist Purple Stripe' and `AngelMist Deep Plum' were measured at eight temperatures, ranging from 17 to 42 °C. Pnet for both cultivars increased from 17 to ≈20 °C, and then decreased as temperature increased further. Optimal temperatures for Pnet of `AngelMist Purple Stripe' and `AngelMist Deep Plum' were 20.8 and 19.8 °C, respectively. There was no significant difference between the two cultivars, irrespective of temperature. The Q10 (the relative increase with a 10 °C increase in temperature) for Pnet of both cultivars decreased over the entire temperature range. Dark respiration (Rdark) of both cultivars showed a similar linear increase as temperature increased. As photosynthetic photon flux (PPF) increased from 0 to 600 μmol·m-2·s-1, Pnet of both cultivars increased. Light saturation was not yet reached at 600 μmol·m-2·s-1. The light compensation point occurred at 69 μmol·m-2·s-1 for `AngelMist Purple Stripe' and at 89 μmol·m-2·s-1 for `AngelMist Deep Plum'. The lower light saturation point of `AngelMist Purple Stripe' was the result of a higher quantum yield (0.037 mol·mol-1 for `AngelMist Purple Stripe' and 0.026 mol·mol-1 for `AngelMist Deep Plum'). The difference in quantum yield between the two cultivars may explain the faster growth habit of `AngelMist Purple Stripe'.

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M.W. van Iersel, R.B. Beverly, P.A. Thomas, J.G. Latimer and H.A. Mills

Good fertilizer management is important in plug seedling production of bedding plants to prevent nutrient deficiencies and toxicities. We determined the effect of N, P, and K nutrition on the growth of plugs of impatiens (Impatiens wallerana Hook. f.), petunia (Petunia ×hybrida Hort. Vilm.-Andr.), salvia (Salvia splendens F. Sellow ex Roem.& Schult.), and vinca (Catharanthus roseus L.). For all four species, shoot N concentration was correlated linearly with shoot dry mass of the seedlings at transplant. Phosphorus or K concentration in the nutrient solution or shoot tissue had little or no effect on the shoot growth of seedlings, but shoot P levels increased with P concentrations in the fertilizer solution (luxury consumption). Salvia was the only species that also exhibited luxury consumption of K. Results of this study indicate that seedling growth of these species is mainly determined by N and this should probably be the main focus of fertility programs in the plug industry, while P and K applications can be reduced.

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M.W. van Iersel, P.A. Thomas, R.B. Beverly, J.G. Latimer and H.A. Mills

Pre- and posttransplant growth of plug seedlings is affected by the nutrition of the plants. The effects of weekly applications of nutrient solution with different N (8—32 mM) or P and K (0.25—1.0 mM) levels on the growth and nutrient composition of impatiens (Impatiens wallerana Hook. f.) and petunia (Petunia ×hybrida hort. Vilm.-Andr.) plug seedlings were quantified. Impatiens and petunia pretransplant seedling growth was most rapid with a NO3 - concentration of 24 or 32 mM (N at 336 and 448 mg·L-1), while P and K had little effect. Increasing the N concentration in the fertilizer also increased shoot tissue N levels of both impatiens and petunia and decreased shoot P level of impatiens and K level of petunia. Posttransplant growth was most rapid in plants that received N at 16 to 32 mM. Decreasing P and K from 1 to 0.25 mM in the pretransplant fertilizer reduced posttransplant growth. Shoot P level of impatiens 15 d after transplanting decreased from 6.9 to 4.8 mg·g-1 as the pretransplant fertilizer N concentration increased from 8 to 32 mM, while N level increased from 18 to 28 mg·g-1 as P and K fertilizer concentrations increased from 0.25 to 1 mM. Using posttransplant growth as a quantitative norm for plug quality, the sufficiency ranges for tissue N level are 28 to 40 mg·g-1 for impatiens and 30 to 43 mg·g-1 for petunia plugs. These results indicate that fertilization programs for high-quality plug production should focus on N nutrition, and that plugs can be grown with greatly reduced levels of P and K.

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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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D. Schwarz, H.-P. Kläring, M.W. van Iersel and K.T. Ingram

An increase in nutrient solution concentration to produce high-quality fruit vegetables, such as tomatoes, may reduce growth and yield. One reason might be inhibition of photosynthesis, but results of photosynthesis studies in the literature are inconsistent. In this study, we investigated growth and photosynthesis of whole `Celebrity' and `Counter' tomato [Lycopersicon esculentum (L.) Mill.] plants in response to nutrient solution concentration, measured as electrical conductivity (EC). The effects of two levels of photosynthetic photon flux density (PPF = 400 or 625 μmol·m-2·s-1) on plant response to nutrient solution EC in a range between 1.25 to 8.75 dS·m-1 in a series of four experiments in gas exchange chambers placed in larger growth chambers were examined. Increasing PPF enhanced tomato growth and photosynthesis but increasing EC diminished them. Reduction of dry weight was 1.9% to 7.3%, while plant photosynthesis was reduced between 1.7% and 4.5% for each 1 dS·m-1. Increasing EC did not decrease dry matter content and leaf photosynthesis. Mean plant dry matter content ranged between 70 and 95 g·kg-1, and net leaf photosynthesis on the last measurement day was between 7.5 and 11.3 μmol·m-2·s-1, depending on experiment. The decrease in whole plant photosynthesis with an increase in EC was caused by decreased leaf area but not by a decrease in leaf photosynthesis.