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Martin P.N. Gent

Nutrient availability may depend on method of fertilization particularly when the root medium is cool. The salad greens, arugula, lettuce, and spinach, were grown in spring, fall, and winter using organic or conventional fertilization to test this hypothesis. Field plots were mineral soil fertilized with 10N-10P-10K, or soil was amended with leaf compost and cotton-seed meal. Unheated high-tunnel plantings plots contained either perlite fertilized with a complete soluble fertilizer or a 1 leaf compost: 1 perlite mixture fertilized with cotton-seed meal. There was no consistent difference in growth due to the method of fertilization, either in the field or in high tunnels. Over all plantings in field and high-tunnel plots, concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus were higher in leaves of plants grown with leaf compost. The time of year did not affect the difference in composition between plants grown in compost and perlite in a manner that could be related to the environment or rate of growth. Although relative growth rates were only 5% per day in high tunnels in winter compared to 10% to 18% per day in other seasons, the difference in reduced nitrogen among plants grown in compost and perlite was similar in winter and summer. The changes in composition due to method of fertilization were similar in all three plant species under study.

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Martin P.N. Gent

Efficacy of paclobutrazol was determined when applied to rooted cuttings before transplant. Cuttings of large-leaf Rhododendron catawbiense Michx. were treated with paclobutrazol applied as a 40-mL drench. In 1998, concentrations of 0, 1, 2, 10, or 20 mg·L-1 were applied to liners before root development was complete in February, or after cuttings were root-bound in May. The same volume of solution was applied to other plants at concentrations of 0, 5, 10, or 20 mg·L-1 in July 1998, after transplant to 1-gal pots. In 1999, a 40-mL drench of paclobutrazol at 0, 1, 2, 5, 10, or 20 mg·L-1 was only applied to liners in April. All cuttings were transplanted to 1-gal pots and set in the field. The elongation of stems was measured after each of three flushes of growth. Plants were far more responsive to paclobutrazol when it was applied before, rather than after transplant. There was a saturating response to paclobutrazol concentration and the half-maximal response occurred at 2 to 4 mg·L-1 (0.08 to 0.16 mg/plant). At low rates, later flushes of growth were affected less than earlier flushes. However if paclobutrazol was applied at 10 or 20 mg·L-1, later flushes of growth were inhibited more completely than early flushes. Flowering was enhanced by paclobutrazol. Paclobutrazol at 2 mg·L-1 applied to rooted cuttings before transplant was sufficient to inhibit growth of rhododendron, but not to the point where later flushes of growth were excessively short. Chemical name used: 2RS,3RS-1-(4-chlorophenyl)-4,4-dimethyl-2-(1,2,4-triazol-l-yl)-pentan-3-ol (paclobutrazol).

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Martin P. N. Gent

Tomatoes were grown in spring and summer in Connecticut in greenhouses covered with a double layer of 4-mL clear polyethylene film. Some sections were covered with reflective aluminized shadecloth that provided 85%, 70%, or 50% transmittance of direct radiation, respectively. This shading was applied in mid-June, after fruit began to ripen, and remained for the rest of the summer. Fruit was picked through August. A similar experimental protocol was used in 2003 and 2004. The maximum shading only decreased daily integrated solar radiation to 69% of that without shade, as measured by PARsensors set at a 2-m height in each greenhouse. Shading reduced yield of ripe fruit from 16.6 and 13.1 kg·m-2, proportional to the measured decrease in radiation. Neither fruit size nor weight fraction of marketable fruit was affected by shading in 2004. Nutrient content was analyzed in tissues of ripe fruits, and uppermost expanded leaves harvested in early August. As shading decreased transmittance, it increased the concentration of most elements in leaves. Total N, P, and K concentrations followed this trend; however, Ca was not affected by shading. Fruit dry matter content declined slightly, from 5.9% to 5.7% of fresh weight, for plants grown with no shade or shade with 50% transmittance, respectively. However, there was no significant effect of shading on K, Ca, Mg, or on minor elements in fruit tissue, whether expressed on a fresh weight or dry weight basis. Thus, shading a greenhouse to improve fruit quality had no effect on the value of ripe tomatoes as a dietary source of mineral nutrients.

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Martin P.N. Gent

Solution electrical conductivity (EC) and the supply of nitrate in proportion to other elements (nitrate supply ratio) should effect tissue composition of lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.) grown in hydroponic solution. These parameters were varied in several series of successive plantings in greenhouses in the northeast United States. In 1996, when the treatments differed only in EC, 0.65 and 0.9 dS·m-1, but not in nitrate supply ratio, leaf tissue had more nitrate and total reduced-N and lettuce grew faster in the solution with higher EC. Over four series of plantings in 1997 and 1998, the nitrate supply ratio of a low-N treatment was only 60% of that for a high-N treatment, and EC was varied from 1.2 to 2.0 dS·m-1. In 1997 and 1998, tissue nitrate was lower in the low-N treatment only when EC was less than in the high-N treatment. However, under irradiance greater than 10 MJ m-2 per day, the lower EC also slowed growth. Stepwise regression over data from all experiments showed leaf nitrate was primarily a function of EC, and a term that described the interaction between irradiance and EC. Due to selective uptake by the plants, the ratio of elements in the recirculating solution differed from the ratio in which they were supplied. Under irradiance less than 10 MJ m-2 per day and solution EC greater than 1.5 dS·m-1, nitrate accumulated in solution to a concentration greater than expected from simple dilution of the concentrates. Tissue nitrate was also related to solution nitrate, increasing by 0.08-0.09 mg·g-1 dry weight per 1 mg·L-1 increase in solution nitrate. To prevent a rise in tissue and solution nitrate under low irradiance, both solution EC and nitrate supply ratio had to be reduced by about one-third, compared to the conditions required for rapid growth under high irradiance.

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Martin P.N. Gent

Some amount of shade may be optimal to produce high-quality tomatoes in a greenhouse during summer months in the northeast United States. Simultaneous comparisons were made among greenhouse sections that were either not shaded or covered with reflective aluminized shadecloth that attenuated 15%, 30%, or 50% of direct sunlight. The shadecloth was applied at the start of warm weather in June. The houses were shaded for the rest of the summer, and fruit was picked until late August. Total yield decreased linearly with increasing shade, but there was no significant difference among shade treatments in marketable yield. The fraction of fruit that was marketable was greatest for plants grown under 50% shade. This fraction was 9% greater than in a greenhouse with no shade in 2003 and 7% greater in 2004 and 2005. Cracked skin was the defect most affected by shade. Among sensitive cultivars, up to 35% of the fruit produced in greenhouses with no shade had cracked skin, whereas in greenhouses covered with 50% shade, only 24% to 26% of the tomatoes had cracked skin. There was no consistent trend for shade density in the fraction of fruit with green shoulder, blossom end rot, or irregular shape. The effect of shade increased with duration of shading. There was no effect of 50% shade compared with no shade on total yield within 20 days, but yield decreased by 20% in the interval from 25 to 45 days after shading and by 30% after 50 or more days of shading in 2005. Marketable yield only decreased after more than 45 days of shading for cultivars that were not sensitive to cracked skin or uneven ripening. Shade decreased fruit size over the entire season only in 2003. In general, shading increased the fraction of marketable tomato fruit without affecting fruit size.

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Martin P.N. Gent

The persistence of effects of paclobutrazol or uniconazol on stem elongation was determined for several years after large-leaf Rhododendron and Kalmia latifolia were treated with a single-spray application of these triazol growth-regulator chemicals. Potted plants were treated in the second year from propagation, and transplanted into the field in the following spring. The elongation of stems was measured in the year of application and in the following 2 to 4 years. Treatments with a wide range of doses were applied in 1991, 1992, or 1995. For all except the most-dilute applications, stem elongation was retarded in the year following application. At the highest doses, stem growth was inhibited 2 years following application. The results could be explained by a model of growth regulator action that assumed stem elongation was inversely related to amount of growth regulator applied. The dose response coefficient for paclobutrazol was less than that for uniconazol. The dose that inhibited stem elongation one-half as much as a saturating dose was about 0.5 and 0.05 mg/plant, for paclobutrazol and uniconazol, respectively. The dose response coefficient decreased exponentially with time after application, with an exponential time constant of about 2/year. The model predicted a dose of growth regulator that inhibited 0.9 of stem elongation immediately after application would continue to inhibit 0.5 of stem elongation in the following year.

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Martin P.N. Gent*

Shading a greenhouse increased the fraction of tomatoes that were marketable, and the marketable yield, in a comparison of greenhouse tomato yields across years, in some of which the greenhouses were shaded. In 2003, the yield and quality of greenhouse tomatoes were compared directly when grown in spring and summer in Connecticut in identical greenhouses that differed only in the degree of shade. Each half of four greenhouses was either unshaded or shaded using reflective aluminized shade cloth rated to reduced light transmission by 15%, 30%, or 50%. Each shade treatment was repeated in two houses. Tomatoes were germinated in February and transplanted in March The houses were shaded when fruit began to ripen in early June. Picking continued through August. The effect of shade on total yield developed gradually. Yields in June were unaffected by shade, but in August yield under no shade was about 30% higher than under 50% shade. In contrast, there was an immediate effect of shade on fruit size. Fruit picked in June from plants under 50% shade was 16% smaller than from plants grown under no shade. This difference declined later in the season, to 6 and 9%, in July and August respectively. The highest yield of marketable fruit in 2003 was picked from houses under no shade, but this was only 10% more than picked from the houses under 50% shade. Shade increased the fraction of marketable fruit, from 54% under no shade to 63% under 50% shade. Certain defects were decreased by shade. For instance the fraction of fruit with cracked skin was decreased from 33% to 25%. In general, effects on fruit quality varied linearly with the degree of applied shade.

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Martin P.N. Gent

Serial plantings of hydroponic lettuce were grown throughout the year in the northeast United States to determine how sunlight intensity and solution nitrate affect nitrate in leaf tissue. Two nutrient solutions were used. All essential elements were supplied at the same concentration, except nitric acid was added to the high-N treatment to increase nitrate to 5.7 mm (352 ppm), compared to 4.0 mm (248 ppm) in the low-N treatment. A feedback control system maintained a constant conductivity and volume in the recirculating nutrient solution. The actual nitrate concentration in solution was higher in winter than in summer. In winter, it rose to 800 ppm in the high-N solution, while it remained below 200 ppm in the low-N solution. In summer, nitrate was 200 to 400 ppm in the high-N solution, compared to 40 to 120 ppm in the low-N solution. Concentration of other mineral elements remained at levels similar to the original formulation. Nitrate concentration in leaf tissue when the lettuce plants reached a marketable size was sensitive to sunlight and nitrate supply. In spring and summer, tissue nitrate was as low as 1100 ppm. It increased to about 4000 ppm in lettuce grown in mid-winter in a shaded greenhouse and fed high-N solution, while low-N plants had less than 3000 ppm nitrate. Tissue nitrate was related to solution nitrate. Tissue nitrate increased in proportion to solution nitrate, up to about 400 ppm nitrate in solution, then leveled off at a concentration of about 4000 ppm in the leaves, a relation that was the same under all sunlight intensities. The accumulation of nitrate in the nutrient solution was one cause of the high concentration of nitrate in lettuce leaves.

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Martin P.N. Gent

Leaf tissue composition may depend on season and method of fertilization. Lettuce and spinach were grown in spring, fall, and winter in unheated high tunnels using organic or conventional fertilization. The root medium was either perlite fertilized with a nitrate-based complete soluble fertilizer, or leaf compost/perlite 1:1 v/v fertilized with cottonseed meal. Growth rate did not differ due to the method of fertilization, but specific leaf area was 10% greater with compost. Growth in compost raised the concentrations of total reduced nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium in both species. Effects of season were factored with a 3rd-order polynomial in Julian day. Nitrate, total phosphorus and potassium varied with season. Interaction of effects of season and fertilization were only significant for total reduced nitrogen and phosphate in leaves of lettuce. The difference in nitrogen due to fertilization was larger in fall harvests than at other times of year. There was a similar, but nonsignificant, trend with time for total reduced nitrogen in spinach. Differences in nitrate due to fertilization were small, compared to those of reduced nitrogen. The same seasonal trend in potassium was seen in both species, and for both methods of fertilization. Concentrations were highest in spring and lowest in fall.

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Martin P.N. Gent

The composition of spinach (Spinacea oleracea L.) was studied in response to daily light integral (DLI) and diurnal variation in a greenhouse. Values for plantings with different irradiance were compared using normalized daily light integral (NDLI), which was DLI divided by leaf area index. The dry mass as a ratio of fresh mass increased with NDLI as it increased from 3 to 27 mol·m−2·d−1. Reduced nitrogen (N) changed with time of day under high but not under low NDLI. Nitrate and amino acids were affected by temperature more than NDLI. Starch increased with NDLI to 27 mol·m−2·d−1 in morning or afternoon. However, sugars decreased with temperature more than with NDLI, due to a decrease in petioles up to 20 °C. Oxalic acid increased with NDLI or temperature. Over a diurnal cycle, starch had minimum value at 0800 hr and maximum at 1800 hr in all parts. The sugars, sucrose, glucose, and fructose, had a binary response with high values in the day and low values in the night. Oxalic acid increased at the end of the day. Other metabolites had no response to time of day. The growth of spinach may be slow in fall compared with summer due to the effect of low temperature on metabolism of sugars and nitrate.