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Matthew D. Taylor, Rachel Kreis and Lidia Rejtö

The pH of peatmoss generally ranges from 3.0 to 4.0 and limestone is typically added to raise pH to a suitable range. Compost is also used as a substrate component and typically has a high pH of 6.0 to 8.0. When using compost, lime rates must be reduced or eliminated. The two objectives of this study were to determine the resulting pH of substrates created with varying amounts of limestone and compost and assess the impact of the various amounts of limestone and compost on pH buffering capacity. Compost was created from a 1:1:1 weight ratio of a mixture of green plant material and restaurant food waste:horse manure:wood chips. The first experiment was a factorial design with five compost rates (0%, 10%, 20%, 30%, and 40% by volume), four limestone rates (0, 1.2, 2.4, and 3.6 g·L−1 substrate) with five replications. The experiment was conducted three times, each with a different batch of compost. With 0 lime, initial substrate pH increased from 4.5 to 6.7 as compost rate increased. This trend occurred at all other lime rates, which had pH ranges of 5.2–6.9, 5.6–7.0, and 6.1–7.1 for rates of 1.2, 2.4, and 3.6 g·L−1 substrate, respectively. Substrate pH increased significantly as either compost or lime rates increased. The second experiment was a factorial design with four compost rates by volume (0%, 10%, 20%, and 30%), the same four limestone rates as Expt. 1, and five replications. Each substrate treatment was titrated through incubations with six sulfuric acid rates (0, 0.1, 0.2, 0.4, or 0.7 mol of H+ per gram of dry substrate). Substrates with a similar initial pH had very similar buffering capacities regardless of the compost or limestone rate. These results indicate compost can be used to establish growing substrate pH similar to limestone, and this change will have little to no effect on pH buffering capacity.

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Matthew D. Taylor, Paul V. Nelson and Jonathan M. Frantz

The cause of sudden substrate pH decline by geranium (Pelargonium ×hortorum Bailey) is unknown. Published reports indicate that this response can be influenced in other plants by temperature and light extremes. The first of five experiments compared plants with all flowers removed to plants that were allowed to flower. Experiment 2 compared plants grown at four light levels (105, 210, 450 and 1020 μmol·m–2·s–1). Experiment 3 compared plants grown at four temperatures (14/10, 18/14, 22/18 and 26/22 °C day/night). Experiment 4 was a repeat of Experiment 1 and Experiment 5 was a factorial combining the three highest light levels and the three highest temperature levels. Plants allowed to form flowers had a final substrate pH of 5.7 compared to 6.3 for plants where flowers were removed. With increasing increments of temperature, substrate pH declined from 6.8 to 4.6 and with increasing light intensity from 6.1 to 4.8. There was no effect of flower removal in Experiment 4. Light and temperature had no consistent effects in Experiment 5 throughout 46 days after planting, with most pH values remaining in the acceptable range of 5.6–6.1. By 60 days, temperature treatments began to segregate, with pH being highest in the low-temperature treatments and lowest, down to 5.5, in the highest-temperature treatments. High temperature stimulated geranium acidification in both experiments, with the effect more severe in the first experiment. The flowering and high light effects were not duplicated in the second trial. This indicates that an additional factor is involved in expression of the light, temperature, and flowering control of acidification.

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Matthew D. Taylor, Paul V. Nelson and Jonathan M. Frantz

The cause of sudden substrate pH decline by geranium is unknown. Low Fe and low P have been shown to cause many plant species to acidify the substrate. Research was done to determine if low Fe or P stresses caused four geranium (Pelargonium ×hortorum Bailey) cultivars to acidify nutrient solution. Two cultivars were susceptible and two resistant to substrate acidification based on a grower survey. Rooted geranium cuttings were transferred to 4-L containers containing modified Hoagland's solution with N supplied as 15% NH4 and 85% NO3. The plants were grown in a greenhouse for 44 days. Treatments consisted of a complete nutrient solution and two similar solutions devoid of either Fe or P. Solutions pH was set at 5.8, changed weekly, and tested 3 and 6 days after each change. Because all cultivars showed similar responses, results were combined. Twenty days after transplanting (DAT), plants in all treatments, including control, caused solution pH to fall below 5. At 37 DAT, the solution pH levels for control, minus Fe, and minus P treatments were 4.1, 3.7, and 3.6, respectively. Results indicated that geranium is an acidifying plant when N is supplied as 15% NH4 and 85% NO3. Additionally, low Fe and low P stresses increase the acidification rate. Total dry weights of minus-P plants were about half that of minus-Fe plants. This indicated that plants under P stress had a higher specific rate of acidification than plants under Fe stress.

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Matthew D. Taylor, Paul V. Nelson and Jonathan M. Frantz

Sudden pH decline (SPD) describes the situation where crops growing at an appropriate pH rapidly (within 1–2 weeks) cause the substrate pH to shift downward one to two units. ‘Designer Dark Red’ geraniums (Pelargonium ×hortorum Bailey) were grown in three experiments to assess possible effects of temperature on SPD. The first experiment tested the effect of four day/night temperature regimes (14 °C day/10 °C night, 18 °C day/14 °C night, 22 °C day/18 °C night, and 26 °C day/22 °C night) on substrate acidification. At 63 days after transplanting (DAT), substrate pH declined from 6.8 to 4.6 as temperature increased. Tissue phosphorus (P) of plants grown at the highest three temperatures was extremely low (0.10%–0.14% of dry weight), and P stress has been reported to cause acidification. It was not possible to determine if the drop in substrate pH was a singular temperature effect or a combination of high temperature and low P. To resolve this, a second experiment tested a factorial combination of the three highest temperatures from the first experiment and five preplant P rates (0, 0.065, 0.13, 0.26, or 0.52 g·L−1 substrate). Regardless of tissue P concentrations, which ranged from deficient to above adequate, substrate pH decreased with increasing temperature. At 63 DAT, in the 0.065 and 0.13 P treatments, tissue P was deficient and pH decreased with increasing temperature from 5.6 to 4.7 and 5.9 to 4.7, respectively. In the 0.26 P treatment, tissue P was adequate at the lowest temperature and there was no acidification. At the mid- and highest temperatures, tissue P was deficient and statistically equivalent, yet pH decreased to 5.2 and 4.7, respectively. In the highest P treatment, tissue P levels were unaffected by temperature, above adequate, and pH declined with each increase in temperature from 6.5 to 5.0. The results at 63 DAT once more showed that temperature acted independent of tissue P and caused geraniums to acidify the substrate. In the third experiment, the amount of acidity produced by roots of plants grown at the two highest temperatures used in the first two experiments was quantified. Plants grown at the higher temperature produced 28% more acid per gram dry root. The results herein indicate that high temperature can induce SPD by geranium.

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Matthew D. Taylor, Paul V. Nelson and Jonathan M. Frantz

Sudden pH decline (SPD) describes the situation where crops growing at an appropriate pH rapidly (within 1–2 weeks) cause the substrate pH to shift downward one to two units. ‘Designer Dark Red’ geraniums (Pelargonium ×hortorum Bailey) were grown in three experiments to assess possible effects of light on SPD and phosphorous (P) uptake. The first experiment tested the effect of four light intensities (105, 210, 575, and 1020 ± 25 μmol·m−2·s−1) on substrate acidification. At 63 days, substrate pH declined from 6.0 to 4.8 as light intensity increased. Tissue P of plants grown at the highest two light levels was extremely low (0.10%–0.14% of dry weight). P stress has been reported to cause acidification. Because plants in the two lowest light treatments had adequate P, it was not possible to determine if the drop in substrate pH was a direct light effect or a combination of light and P. The second experiment used a factorial combination of the three highest light levels from Expt. 1 and five preplant P rates (0, 0.065, 0.13, 0.26, or 0.52 g·L−1 substrate) to assess this question. When tissue P concentrations were deficient, pH decreased by 0.6 to 1.0 pH units within 2 weeks and deficiency occurred more often with high light intensity. These data indicated that P deficiency caused substrate acidification and indicated the possibility that P uptake was suppressed by high light intensity. The third experiment was conducted in hydroponics to determine the direct effect of high light intensity on P uptake. In this experiment, cumulative P uptake per gram root and the rate of P uptake per gram root per day both decreased 20% when light intensity increased from 500 to 1100 μmol·m−2·s−1. It is clear from this study that P deficiency causes geraniums to acidify the substrate and that high light suppresses P uptake.

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Andrea N. Brennan, Valerie C. Pence, Matthew D. Taylor, Brian W. Trader and Murphy Westwood

Tissue culture using mature-phase plant material is a useful tool for species conservation, but can be a challenge with oak (Quercus) species, often resulting in low growth and survival. Two different tissue culture media were compared and used to determine whether there was a survival, growth, or contamination response pattern in species representing three North American oak taxonomic sections: red oaks (section Lobatae), white oaks (section Quercus), and golden oaks (section Protobalanus). Mature phase cuttings were harvested in springtime from 12 oak species: arkansas oak (Q. arkansana), canby oak (Q. canbyi), slender oak (Q. graciliformis), nuttall oak (Q. texana), boynton sand post oak (Q. boyntonii), california scrub oak (Q. dumosa), engelmann oak (Q. engelmannii), gambel oak (Q. gambelii), canyon live oak (Q. chrysolepis), palmer oak (Q. palmeri), island oak (Q. tomentella), and huckleberry oak (Q. vacciniifolia). Excised shoot-tip explants were placed onto either Lloyd and McCown woody plant (WP) medium or Gresshoff and Doy (GD) medium. More growth responses and longer survival times were seen on explants grown on the WP medium than GD medium. Explants originating from species native to xeric habitats or those with smooth, glabrous young leaves had significantly higher contamination rates. Although no significant differences were found when grouped by taxonomic section, survival, growth, and contamination varied significantly by species. These findings contribute to the process of establishing tissue culture methods using mature oak material, particularly in relation to medium selection and sterilization protocols, which is critical to the conservation of this iconic group of species.

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Mary H. Meyer, Pamela J. Bennett, Barbara Fair, James E. Klett, Kimberly Moore, H. Brent Pemberton, Leonard Perry, Jane Rozum, Alan Shay and Matthew D. Taylor

Landscape plant evaluations were conducted in eight states: Colorado, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Vermont for 17 switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) and five little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) cultivars. Additional locations in Florida (Fort Lauderdale, Fort Pierce, Quincy, and Wimauma), Nebraska (Lincoln), and Lubbock and San Marcos completed 1 or 2 years of the trials. Plants were established in 2012 and data were collected for 3 years, 2013–15. Sites were asked to compile annual data on plant height, width, flowering time, fall color, pests, foliage color determined by the Royal Horticultural Society’s color chart, plant form, flowering date, floral impact, self-seeding, winter injury, landscape impact, and mortality. Texas A&M Agricultural Research and Extension Center (Overton), Florida (all four locations), and Vermont had the highest mortality rate. Southern Florida locations lost 50% of their plants by the end of 2014. Wide variation was reported for landscape impact, individual cultivar height, and width from different regions of the United States. Three of the 17 switchgrass cultivars, Cloud 9, Northwind, and Thundercloud, had a rating of 4.0 or higher averaged over six or more locations for plant form, floral, and landscape impact. ‘Shenandoah’ and ‘Warrior’ switchgrass had a rating of 4.0 or higher averaged over six or more locations for plant form and landscape impact, but not floral impact. Only one of the five little bluestem cultivars, Blue Heaven® rated 4.0 or higher, for plant form and landscape impact when averaged over six or more locations. This range of variability in landscape plant performance demonstrates the importance of local plant evaluations.