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Michael R. Evans, Matt Taylor, and Jeff Kuehny

The vertical dry strength of rice hull containers was the highest of all containers tested. Plastic containers and paper containers had similar vertical dry strengths. Containers composed of 80% cedar fiber and 20% peat (Fertil), composted dairy manure (Cowpot), and peat had lower dry vertical dry strengths than the aforementioned containers but had higher vertical dry strengths than those composed of bioplastic (OP47), coconut fiber, and rice straw. Rice hull containers and paper containers had the highest lateral dry strengths. Rice straw, Cowpot, and plastic containers had similar dry lateral strengths, which were significantly higher than those of OP47, Fertil, coconut fiber, and peat containers. Highest dry punch strengths occurred with traditional plastic and Cowpot containers, while the lowest dry punch strengths occurred with OP47, Fertil, coconut fiber, peat, and rice straw containers. Plastic, rice hull, and paper containers had the highest wet vertical and lateral strengths. Plastic containers had the highest wet punch strength, while Fertil, Cowpot, and peat containers had the lowest wet punch strengths. When saturated substrate was placed into containers and the substrate surface and drainage holes were sealed with wax, plastic, OP47, and rice hull containers had the lowest rates of water loss per unit of container surface area, while peat, Fertil, and rice straw containers had the highest rates of water loss per unit of container surface area. The amounts of water required to produce a geranium (Pelargonium ×hortorum) crop were significantly higher and the average irrigation intervals were shorter for peat, Fertil, coconut fiber, Cowpot, and rice straw containers than for traditional plastic containers. The amounts of water required to produce a geranium crop and the average irrigation intervals were similar among plastic, rice hull, and OP47 containers. Algal and fungal coverage on the outside container walls averaged 47% and 26% for peat and Fertil containers, respectively, and was higher than for all other containers tested, which had 4% or less algal and fungal coverage. After 8 weeks in the field, Cowpot containers had decomposed 62% and 48% in the Pennsylvania and Louisiana locations, respectively. Peat, rice straw, and Fertil containers decomposed 32%, 28%, and 24%, respectively, in Pennsylvania, and 10%, 9%, and 2%, respectively, in Louisiana. Coconut fiber containers had the lowest level of decomposition at 4% and 1.5% in Pennsylvania and Louisiana, respectively.

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Jeff S. Kuehny, Matt Taylor, and Michael R. Evans

Biodegradable and plastic containers were evaluated for greenhouse and landscape production of ‘Score Red’ geranium (Pelargonium ×hortorum), ‘Grape Cooler’ vinca (Catharanthus roseus), or ‘Dazzler Lilac Splash’ impatiens (Impatiens wallerana) at Louisiana State University (LSU), Baton Rouge, LA; Longwood Gardens (LWG), Kennett Square, PA; and University of Arkansas (UA), Fayetteville, AR. Of the 5-inch containers, the highest geranium and vinca shoot growth occurred in plastic containers compared with bioplastic and rice straw containers. Of the 4-inch containers, paper containers produced the greatest geranium shoot growth compared with the peat containers at LSU and LWG. Shoot growth in impatiens was similar for all container types at all three locations. When all container types were considered, there was no difference in the root growth of geranium or impatiens at all three locations. However, vinca had the highest root growth in paper containers compared with that in peat and coconut fiber. The root:shoot (R:S) ratio of geranium were mixed for all pot sizes, types, and locations. Vinca R:S ratio was highest in both the 4- and 5-inch plastic control containers at LSU and lowest in both plastic containers at LWG. Direct plant containers generally performed well in the landscape as the plants grown in plastic containers at LWG. Plants grown in all tested containers produced marketable plants for both the retail and landscape markets. However, growers and landscapers should be aware of growth differences that may occur when using biodegradable containers and align production practices accordingly.