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Marc W. van Iersel*

Literature reports on the Q10 for respiration vary widely, both within and among species. Plant size and metabolic activity may be responsible for some of this variation. To test this, respiration of whole lettuce plants was measured at temperatures ranging from 6 to 31 °C during a 24-h period. Subsequently, plant growth rate (in moles of carbon per day) was determined by measuring the CO2 exchange rate of the same plants during a 24-h period. Environmental conditions during this 24-h period resembled those that the plants were exposed to in the greenhouse. The measured growth rate was then used to estimate the relative growth rate (RGR) of the plants. The respiratory Q10 ranged from 1.4 for small plants to 1.75 for large plants. The increase in Q10 with increasing plant size was highly significant, as was the decrease in Q10 with increasing RGR. However, growth rate had little or no effect on the respiratory Q10. One possible explanation for these findings is that the Q10 depends on the ratio of growth to maintenance respiration (which is directly related to RGR). The growth respiration coefficient generally is considered to be temperature-insensitive, while the maintenance respiration coefficient normally increases with increasing temperature. Based on this concept, the Q10 for the maintenance respiration coefficient can be estimated as the estimated Q10 at a RGR of zero (i.e. no growth and thus no growth respiration), which was 1.65 in this experiment. Although the concept of dividing respiration into growth and maintenance fractions remains controversial, it is useful for explaining changes in respiratory Q10 during plant development.

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Marc van Iersel

Container size can affect the growth and development of bedding plants. The effects of widely differing container sizes on growth and development of salvia (Salvia splendens F. Sellow ex Roem. & Schult.) were quantified. Plants were grown in a greenhouse in 7.3-, 55-, 166-, and 510-mL containers. Container volume affected plant growth as early as 18 days after planting. Growth was positively correlated with pot size and differences increased throughout most of the growing period. Growth of the plants in the 7.3-mL cells was reduced because of a low net assimilation rate (4.34 g·m-2·d-1), compared to the plants in the 55-, 166-, and 510-mL pots (≈5.44 g·m-2·d-1). Plants in 510-mL containers grew faster than those in 55- and 166-mL containers because of a higher leaf area ratio. Both lateral branching and leaf expansion were suppressed by root restriction and flowering was delayed. The growth rate of plants in 166-mL pots declined after the onset of flowering, and final plant size was comparable for plants in 55- and 166-mL pots. Although water deficit stress or nutrient deficiencies cannot be excluded as contributing factors, these were probably not the main reason for observed differences.

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Marc van Iersel

Uprooting and transplanting seedlings can cause root damage, which may reduce water and nutrient uptake. Initiation of new roots and rapid elongation of existing roots may help minimize the negative effects of transplant shock. In this study, seedlings with four true leaves were transplanted into diatomaceous earth and the plants were transferred to a growth chamber, where they were treated with NAA (0, 0.025, 0.25, and 2.5 mg·L-1; 36 mL/plant). The effects of drenches with various amounts of 1-naphthaleneacetic acid (NAA) on the posttransplant CO2 exchange rate of vinca [Catharanthus roseus (L.) G. Don] were quantified. Whole-plant CO2 exchange rate of the plants was measured once every 20 minutes for a 28 day period. Seedlings treated with 0.025 or 0.25 mg·L-1 recovered from transplant shock more quickly than plants in the 0 and 2.5 mg·L-1 treatments. Naphthaleneacetic acid drenches containing 0.025 or 0.25 mg·L-1 increased whole-plant net photosynthesis (Pnet) from 10 days, dark respiration (Rdark) from 12 days, and carbon use efficiency (CUE) from 11 days after transplanting until the end of the experiment. The increase in CUE seems to have been the result of the larger size of the plants in these two treatments, and thus an indirect effect of the NAA applications. These differences in CO2 metabolism among the treatments resulted in a 46% dry mass increase in the 0.025 mg·L-1 treatment compared to the control, but shoot-root ratio was not affected. The highest rate of NAA (2.5 mg·L-1) was slightly phytotoxic and reduced the growth rate of the plants.

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Marc van Iersel

Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima Willd. ex Klotzsch) were grown in pots filled with 1.5 L of soilless growing medium and subirrigated daily with a fertilizer solution containing N at 210 mg·L-1 [electrical conductivity (EC) = 1.5 dS·m-1] for 128 days. After production, plants were placed in a whole-plant photosynthesis system and the effects of applying different volumes of water (0, 0.75, 1.5, and 3 L) to the top of the pots were quantified. Leaching with 0.75, 1.5, or 3 L of water reduced the EC in the top and middle layers of the growing medium. Applications of 0.75 or 1.5 L of water significantly increased the EC in the bottom third of the pots, where most of the root growth occurred. However, even in these treatments the EC in the bottom layer was only 2.6 dS·m-1 (saturated medium extraction method), which is well within the recommended range. The 0.75- and 1.5-L treatments also reduced the respiration rate of the plants by 20%, but none of the treatments had a significant effect on the photosynthesis of the plants. Regression analysis indicated a negative correlation between the EC of the bottom layer of the growing medium and dark respiration, while the EC of the top and middle layer had no significant effect on respiration. Although top watering can increase the EC in the bottom layer of the growing medium, this effect is unlikely to be large enough to cause significant plant stress and damage.

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Marc W. van Iersel

Do you accurately measure and report the growing conditions of your controlled environment experiments? Conditions in controlled environment plant growth rooms and chambers should be reported in detail. This is important to allow replication of experiments on plants, to compare results among facilities, and to avoid artefacts due to uncontrolled variables. The International Committee for Controlled Environment Guidelines, with representatives from the U.K. Controlled Environment Users' Group, the North American Committee on Controlled Environment Technology and Use (NCR-101), and Australasian Controlled Environment Working Group (ACEWG), has developed guidlines to report environmental conditions in controlled environment experiments. These guidelines include measurements of light, temperature, humidity, CO2, air speed, and fertility. A brochure with these guidelines and a sample paragraph on how to include this information in a manuscript will be available.

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Marc van Iersel

Auxins are commonly used to induce root formation during in-vitro culture of higher plants. Because transplanting is often accompanied by root damage and loss of small roots, auxins also could be beneficial in minimizing transplant shock. Vinca (Cataranthus rosea) seeds were germinated in a peat-lite growing mix and transplanted into pots (55 mL) filled with a diatomaceous earth (Isolite) 10 days after planting. Pots were then placed in a tray containing 62.5 mL of auxin solution per pot. Two different auxins [indole-acetic acid (IAA) and naphtylacetic acid (NAA)] were applied at rates ranging from 0.01 to 100 mg/L. Post-transplant growth was slow, possibly because of Fe+2-deficiencies. Both IAA (1–10 mg/L) and NAA (0.01–10 mg/L) significantly increased post-transplant root and shoot growth. As expected, NAA was effective at much lower concentrations than IAA. At 63 days after transplant, shoot dry mass of plants treated with 0.1 mg NAA/L was four times that of control plants, while 10 mg IAA/L increased shoot dry mass three-fold. High rates of both IAA (100 mg/L) and NAA (10–100 mg/L) were less effective. The highest NAA rate (100 mg/L) was phytotoxic, resulting in very poor growth and death of many plants. These results suggest that auxins may be a valuable tool in reducing transplant shock and improving plant establishment.

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Marc van Iersel

Salvia splendens `Top burgundy' was grown in pots of different sizes (5, 50, 150, and 450 mL) to assess the effect of rooting volume on the growth and development of salvia. Seeds were planted in a peat-lite growing medium and plants grown in a greenhouse during the winter and spring of 1996. Plants were spaced far enough apart to minimize mutual shading and interplant light competition. Plants were harvested at weekly intervals and shoot and root dry mass and leaf area were measured. Relative growth rate (RGR) and net assimilation rate were calculated from these data. Differences in plant size became evident at 25 days after seeding. A small pot size (5 mL) decreased root and shoot dry mass, RGR, and NAR, while increasing the root:shoot ratio. Differences between the pot sizes became more apparent during the course of the experiment. The observation that root: shoot ratio decreased with increasing pot volume suggests that the decreased plant size in smaller pots was not the direct effect of reduced root size. Growth most likely was limited by the ability of the roots to supply the shoots with sufficient water and/or nutrients. Pot volume did not only affect the growth, but also the development of the plants. Salvia flowered faster in bigger pots (about 50 days after seeding in 450-mL pots), while the plants in 5-mL cells did not flower during the 9-week period of the experiment.

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Marc van Iersel

Transplanting often causes root damage, and rapid root growth following transplanting may help to minimize the effects of transplant shock. The objective of this study was to determine the effects of NAA and IAA on posttransplant growth of vinca (Catharanthus roseus L.). Bare-root seedlings were germinated in a peat-based growing mix and transplanted into diatomaceous earth 10 days after seeding. Immediately after transplanting, seedlings were drenched with several concentrations of IAA or NAA (62.5 mL/plant). Both auxins increased posttransplant root and shoot growth, but the response was dose-dependent. The maximum growth occurred at concentrations of 10 mg·L-1 (IAA) or 0.1 mg·L-1 (NAA). The growth-stimulating effect of these auxins decreased at higher rates and NAA was highly toxic at 100 mg·L-1, killing most of the plants. Unlike the growth of bare-root seedlings, plug seedling growth was not stimulated by drenching with NAA solutions. These results show that auxins have the ability to stimulate posttransplant growth of vinca, but their effects may depend on the application method, rate, and timing, and transplanting method. Chemical names used: 1-naphthaleneacetic acid (NAA); 1-indole-3-acetic acid (IAA).

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Marc van Iersel

Ebb- and-flow irrigation is an economically attractive subirrigation method that reduces labor costs and eliminates runoff from greenhouses. The effects of fertilizer concentration on growth of subirrigated pansy (Viola ×wittrockiana Gam.) and the leachate electrical conductivity (EC) and pH were quantified, using two growing media. Leachate EC increased as the EC of the fertilizer solution increased from 0.6 to 3.6 dS·m–1 (70 to 530 mg·L–1 N). The leachate EC was fairly constant over time when the EC of the fertilizer solution was 0.6 dS·m–1, while it increased throughout the experiment at higher fertilizer concentrations. MetroMix 300 leachate consistently had a higher EC than did MetroMix 500. Leachate pH of both growing media was similar throughout the growing season. The pH decreased over time and was lower with higher fertilizer concentrations. Optimal plant growth occurred with a fertilizer EC of 1.2 or 1.8 dS·m–1, and a leachate EC between 1.5 and 4 dS·m–1. Increasing the concentration of the fertilizer solution resulted in increased shoot tissue levels of P and Mn and decreased tissue levels of K, Mg, and Na. The results of this study indicate that pansy is not very sensitive to the EC of the growing medium and can be grown successfully in a closed subirrigation system.

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Marc W. van Iersel

Bedding plants are exposed to a wide range of environmental conditions, both during production and in the landscape. This research compared the effect of short-term temperature changes on the CO2 exchange rates of four popular bedding plants species. Net photosynthesis (Pnet) and dark respiration (Rdark) of geranium (Pelargonium ×hortorum L.H. Bail.), marigold (Tagetes patula L.), pansy (Viola ×wittrockiana Gams.), and petunia (Petunia ×hybrida Hort. Vilm.-Andr.) were measured at temperatures ranging from 8 to 38 °C (for Pnet) and 6 to 36 °C (for Rdark). Net photosynthesis of all species was maximal at 14 to 15 °C, while Rdark of all four species increased exponentially with increasing temperature. Gross photosynthesis (Pgross) was estimated as the sum of Pnet and Rdark, and was greater for petunia than for the other three species. Gross photosynthesis was less sensitive to temperature than either Pnet or Rdark, suggesting that temperature effects on Pnet were caused mainly by increased respiration at higher temperatures. Gas exchange-temperature response curves were not useful in determining the heat tolerance of these species. There were significant differences among species in the estimated Rdark at 0 °C and the Q10 for Rdark. Differences in the Q10 for Rdark were related to growth rate and plant size. Large plants had a greater Q10 for Rdark, apparently because these plants had a higher ratio of maintenance to growth respiration than small plants. The Q10 of the maintenance respiration coefficient was estimated from the correlation between the Q10 and relative growth rate, and was found to be 2.5 to 2.6.