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Michael R. Evans

Two grades of ground bovine bone were evaluated as potential alternatives to perlite in horticultural substrates. The bulk density of small and large bone-amended substrates was significantly higher than equivalent perlite-amended substrates. Large and small bone increased the air-filled pore space of sphagnum peat. However, at 10% and 20% (v/v), neither size of bone resulted in as high an air-filled pore space as equivalent amounts of perlite. At 30% and 40%, incorporation of small bone resulted in a similar air-filled pore space as incorporation of equivalent amounts of perlite, and incorporation of large bone resulted in a higher air-filled pore space than incorporation of equivalent amounts of perlite. Water-filled pore space and water-holding capacities of substrates were inversely related to air-filled pore space. When placed in a moist substrate, mineral elements within the bone were able to leach into the substrate over time. Substrates amended with 40% large and small bone had significantly higher concentrations of ammonium (NH4 +), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), calcium (Ca), sodium (Na), and chloride (Cl-) than the 40% perlite-containing substrates. Substrates amended with 40% large bone had similar concentrations of magnesium (Mg), sulfur (S), iron (Fe), and copper (Cu) while substrates amended with 40% small bone had higher levels of these elements than perlite-amended substrates. Substrate concentrations of nitrate (NO3 -), manganese (Mn), zinc (Zn), and boron (B) were not different among the substrates after 4 weeks in the greenhouse. The pH, electrical conductivity (EC) and NH4 + levels of bone-amended substrates increased to levels significantly higher than recommended and resulted in rapid mortality of `Orbit Cardinal' geranium (Pelargonium × hortorum), `Cooler Blush' vinca (Catharanthus roseus), and `Dazzler Rose Star' impatiens (Impatiens walleriana) plants grown in bone-amended substrates. Therefore, ground bovine bone was not a feasible alternative to perlite for use in horticultural substrates.

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Michael R. Evans

Plant growth was evaluated in substrates containing varying proportions of processed poultry feather fiber (feather fiber). `Cooler Blush' vinca (Catharanthus roseus) and `Orbit Cardinal' geranium (Pelargonium × hortorum) dry shoot and dry root weights were not significantly different among plants grown in sphagnum-peat-based and perlite-based substrates containing 0% to 30% feather fiber. `Pineapple Queen' coleus (Coleus blumei) dry shoot weights were not significantly different among plants grown in substrates containing 0% to 50% feather fiber. Coleus dry root weights were not significantly different among the substrates containing 0% to 40% feather fiber. `Better Boy' tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum) dry shoot weights were not significantly different among the substrates containing 0% to 30% feather fiber. Tomato dry root weights were not significantly different among the substrates containing 0% to 30% feather fiber, but tomato grown in substrates containing 40% to 60% feather fiber had significantly lower dry root weights than tomato grown in substrates containing 0% to 30% feather fiber. `Salad Bush' cucumber (Cucumis sativus) dry shoot and dry root weights were not significantly different between plants grown in 0% to 50% feather fiber, but those gown in substrates containing 60% feather fiber had significantly lower dry shoot weights than those grown in substrates containing 0% feather fiber. Dry shoot and root weights of coleus and tomato grown in SB-300 substrate amended with 20% or 30% feather fiber were not significantly different from coleus and tomato grown in SB-300 without feather fiber. Dry shoot and dry root weights of coleus and tomato were significantly lower for plants grown in SB-300 amended with 40% feather fiber than for plants grown in SB-300 without feather fiber. For all species tested, plants grown in substrates containing up to 30% feather fiber were not significantly different from those grown in substrates containing 0% feather fiber and were of marketable qualities.

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Michael R. Evans

Aggregates produced from finely ground waste glass [Growstones (GS); Earthstone Corp., Santa Fe, NM] have been proposed to adjust the physical properties of peat-based substrates. The GS had a total pore space (TPS) of 87.4% (by volume), which was higher than that of sphagnum peat and perlite but was similar to that of parboiled fresh rice hulls (PBH). The GS had an air-filled pore space (AFP) of 53.1%, which was higher than that of sphagnum peat and perlite but lower than that of PBH. At 34.3%, GS had a lower water-holding capacity (WHC) than sphagnum peat but a higher WHC than either perlite or PBH. The bulk density of GS was 0.19 g·cm−3 and was not different from that of the perlite but was higher than that of sphagnum peat and PBH. The addition of at least 15% GS to sphagnum peat increased the AFP of the resulting peat-based substrate. Substrates containing 25% or 30% GS had a higher AFP than substrates containing equivalent amounts of perlite but a lower AFP than substrates containing equivalent PBH. Substrates containing 20% or more GS had a higher WHC than equivalent perlite- or PBH-containing substrates. Growth of ‘Cooler Grape’ vinca (Catharanthus roseus), ‘Dazzler Lilac Splash’ impatiens (Impatiens walleriana), and ‘Score Red’ geranium (Pelargonium ×hortorum) was similar for plants grown in GS-containing substrates and those grown in equivalent perlite- and PBH-containing substrates.

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Michael R. Evans and Robert Stamps

Helianthus annuus `Big Smile', Tagetes patula 'Bonanza Deep Orange' and Pelargonium × hortorum 'Pinto Rose' seedlings were transplanted into 12 cm (470 ml) pots containing substrates composed of 3 parts (v/v) vermiculite, 3 parts sand and 2 parts perlite. In addition, the substrates contained either 3 parts Florida peat, 3 parts coconut coir (coir), 6 parts coir or 12 parts coir, thus, resulting in 4 substrates. Dolomitic limestone, hydrated limestone, superphosphate, a microelement package and a 14-6.2-11.6 slow release fertilizer were added to the Florida peat-containing substrate. The same materials were added to the coir-containing substrates except that calcium sulfate (gypsum) was used in place of dolomitic and hydrated limestone. All materials were incorporated at rates required to obtain an initial pH of 5.5 to 5.8 and provide equal amounts of calcium, phosphorus and microelements. Data were taken 5 weeks after transplanting. Neither height, shoot fresh weights nor root fresh weights were significantly different between the substrates. Tagetes average heights were between 11.5 and 12.9 cm, while average shoot fresh weights were between 12.6 and 14.7 g and average root fresh weights were between 8.8 and 9.4 g. Helianthus average heights were between 18.4 and 19.9 cm, while average shoot fresh weights were between 29.7 and 31.9 g and average root fresh weights were between 19.6 and 22.3 g. Pelargonium average heights were between 11.9 and 13.4 cm, while average shoot fresh weights were between 13.8 and 15.3 g and average root fresh weights were between 3.4 and 3.7 g.

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Michael R. Evans and Leisha Vance

A series of soilless root substrates was formulated to contain either 20% composted pine bark or perlite and 0%, 10%, 20%, or 30% feather fiber, with the remainder being sphagnum peat. The substrates containing bark or perlite with 0% feather fiber served as the controls for the bark- and perlite-containing substrates respectively. For root substrates containing perlite, the inclusion of feather fiber increased the total pore space compared with the control substrate. For substrates containing bark, the inclusion of 10% or 20% feather fiber increased total pore space, but the inclusion of 30% feather fiber reduced total pore space. For substrates containing perlite, the inclusion of feather fiber increased the air-filled pore space compared with the control, and as the percentage feather fiber increased, air-filled pore space increased. For substrates containing bark, the inclusion of 10% or 20% feather fiber increased air-filled pore space, but air-filled pore space of the substrate containing 30% feather fiber was not different from the control. For all substrates, the inclusion of feather fiber reduced the water-holding capacity, but water-holding capacities for all substrates remained within recommended ranges. The bulk density of feather fiber-containing substrates was not different from the control except for the substrate containing 30% feather fiber with bark, which had a higher bulk density than its control without feather fiber. The difference in physical properties of the 30% feather fiber substrate with bark from its control substrate was attributed to the aggregation of the feather fiber when formulated with composted bark. Aggregation of feather fiber when blended into substrates at levels of 30% or higher would create difficulties in achieving uniform substrates.

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Gang Li and Michael R. Evans

Seedlings of Cucumis sativus (cucumber), Tagetes patula (marigold), Viola tricolor (pansy), Pelargonium × hortorum (geranium), and Impatiens wallerana (impatiens) were germinated on towels soaked with either deionized water, nutrient control solutions, or humic acid solutions. Root fresh weight and root dry weights were higher for all seedlings germinated on towels soaked with humic acid as compared to seedlings germinated on towels soaked with deionized water or nutrient control solutions. Lateral root number and total lateral root length were higher for cucumber, marigold, pansy, and geranium seedlings germinated on towels soaked with humic acid than those germinated on towels soaked with deionized water or nutrient control solutions. Root fresh and dry weights were higher for impatiens, Begonia semperflorens (begonia), marigold, and geranium seedlings germinated in a sphagnum peat: vermiculite (80:20, %v/v) substrate drenched with humic acid as compared to seedlings germinated in substrate drenched with deionized water or nutrient control solutions. Foliar sprays of humic acid also resulted in increased root fresh and dry weights while foliar application of nutrient control solutions either had no effect or reduced root fresh and dry weights.

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Michael R. Evans and Douglas Karcher

When the substrate surface and drainage holes of feather fiber, peat, and plastic containers were sealed with wax, hyperbolic growth curves were good fits to cumulative water loss on a per container and per cm2 basis, with R 2 values ranging from 0.88 to 0.96. The effect of container type was significant as the differences in asymptotic maximum water loss (max) values for all container pairs were significant at P < 0.05 for both water loss per container and water loss per cm2. The predicted total water loss for peat containers was ≈2.5 times greater than feather containers, and the predicted water loss per cm2 for the peat container was ≈3 times greater than feather containers. Vinca [Catharanthus roseus (L.) G. Don.] `Cooler Blush' and impatiens (Impatiens walleriana Hook f.) `Dazzler Rose Star' plants grown in feather and peat containers required more water and more frequent irrigations than those grown in plastic containers. However, plants grown in feather containers required less water and fewer irrigations than plants grown in peat containers. The surface area of containers covered by algal or fungal growth was significantly higher on peat containers than on feather containers. No fungal or algal growth was observed on plastic containers. Additionally, primarily algae were observed on peat containers whereas most discoloration observed on feather containers was due to fungal growth. Dry feather containers had a higher longitudinal strength than dry plastic containers but a lower longitudinal strength than dry peat containers. Wet feather containers had higher longitudinal strength than wet peat containers but a similar longitudinal strength as wet plastic containers. Dry feather and plastic containers had similar lateral strengths and both had significantly higher lateral strength than dry peat containers. Wet feather containers had significantly lower lateral strength than wet plastic containers but had higher lateral strength than wet peat containers. Dry and wet plastic containers had higher punch strength than wet or dry peat and feather containers. Dry peat containers had significantly higher punch strength than dry feather containers. However, wet feather containers had significantly higher punch strength than wet peat containers. Decomposition of peat and feather containers was significantly affected by container type and the species grown in the container. When planted with tomato (Lycopersicum esculentum L.) `Better Boy', decomposition was not significantly different between the peat and feather containers. However, when vinca and marigold (Tagetes patula L.) `Janie Bright Yellow' were grown in the containers, decomposition was significantly higher for feather containers than for peat containers. Therefore, containers made from processed feather fiber provided a new type of biodegradable container with significantly improved characteristics as compared to peat containers.

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Michael R. Evans and Maryanne Gachukia

Ten substrates were formulated by blending perlite or parboiled fresh rice hulls (PFH) at 20%, 30%, 40%, 50%, or 60% (v/v) with sphagnum peat. After 6 weeks, NH4 + concentrations were not significantly different among substrates containing perlite and those containing equivalent amounts of PFH. Nitrate concentrations were significantly higher in the 40% perlite substrate than in the 40% PFH substrate, but there were no significant differences in NO3 - concentrations among the remaining substrates containing equivalent amounts of PFH or perlite. When tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) was grown in the substrates for 5 weeks, tissue N concentrations were not significantly different between equivalent perlite and PFH-containing substrates. Non-parboiled fresh rice hulls produced organically contained a higher number of viable weed seeds than non-parboiled fresh rice hulls produced conventionally. No weed seeds germinated in the PFH. `Better Boy' tomato, `Bonanza Yellow' marigold (Tagetes patula L. French M.), `Orbit Cardinal' geranium (Pelargonium ×hortorum L.H. Bailey), `Cooler Blush' vinca (Catharanthus roseus L.G. Don), `Dazzler Rose Star' impatiens (Impatiens walleriana Hook. f.), and `Bingo Azure' pansy (Viola ×wittrockiana Gams) were grown in sphagnum peat-based substrates containing perlite or PFH at 10%, 15%, 20%, 25%, 30%, 35%, or 40% (v/v). Dry root weights of vinca and geranium were not significantly different among plants grown in the substrates. Tomato plants grown in 10%, 15%, 25%, 30%, and 35% PFH had significantly higher dry root weights than those grown in equivalent perlite-containing substrates. Impatiens grown in 35% PFH had higher dry root weights than those grown in 35% perlite. Marigold grown in 20% perlite had higher dry root weights than those grown in 20% PFH. However, there were no significant differences in impatiens or marigold dry root weights among the remaining substrates containing equivalent amounts of PFH or perlite. Dry root weights of pansy grown in 10%, 20% 25%, 35%, and 40% perlite were not significantly different from those grown in equivalent PFH-containing substrates. Across substrates, root dry weights of impatiens, marigold, and pansy grown in perlite-containing substrates were not significantly different from those grown in PFH-containing substrates. No significant difference in dry shoot weights of vinca, geranium, impatiens, and marigold occurred between equivalent perlite and PFH-containing substrates. Tomato plants grown in 20% to 40% perlite had significantly higher dry shoot weights than those grown in equivalent PFH-containing substrates. However, dry shoot weights of tomato grown in 10% to 15% perlite were not significantly different from those grown in equivalent PFH-containing substrates. Dry shoot weights of pansy grown in 10%, 25%, 30%, 35%, and 40% perlite were not significantly different from those grown in equivalent PFH substrates.

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Heather Quinney and Michael R. Evans

Pepper (Capsicum annuum) and impatiens (Impatiens walleriana) plants were grown in substrates composed of 20% perlite and 20%, 40%, 60% or 80% of a coarse, medium or fine grind of fresh rice hulls with the remainder being Sphagnum peat. Impatiens grown in substrates containing 40% of a coarse, medium or fine and 80% of a fine grind of rice hulls had similar shoot dry weights as those grown in a substrate containing 80% peat. Only impatiens grown in a root substrate containing 40% of the coarse grind of fresh rice hulls had lower root dry weight than those grown in substrates containing 80% peat. Peppers grown in a substrate containing 60% and 80% of a coarse, 60% of a medium or 60% and 80% of a fine grind of fresh rice hulls had similar shoot dry weights as those grown in a substrate containing 80% peat. There were no significant differences in pepper root dry weights among the substrates. Impatiens and pepper plants grown in a substrate containing 80% of the fine grind of fresh rice hulls were similar to those grown in 80% peat, and therefore, the fine grind of fresh rice hulls served as a suitable substitute for Sphagnum peat.

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Ramsey Sealy and Michael R. Evans

Biological substrate amendments including SG-11, Subtilex, SoilGuard, ActinoIron, Companion, RootShield and BioYield were evaluated for their efficacy to control common soil-borne fungal and fungal-like pathogens when incorporated into the substrate at transplanting. The biological agents were incorporated into an 80% Sphagnum peat and 20% perlite substrate at the label recommended rates and four-to-six-leaf plugs of the test species were transplanted into the substrates. Substrates were either inoculated or uninoculated with a test pathogen. Pathogen-host combinations included Pythium ultimum on geranium (Pelargonium ×hortorum), Phytophthora nicotianae and Pythium aphanidermatum on vinca (Catharanthus roseus), and Theilaviopsis basicoli on pansy (Viola ×wittrockiana). The incidence of disease development, plant mortality and root fresh weights did not differ among the biological agents and the inoculated controls. Therefore, under the conditions of this study, the biological agents did not provide significant disease suppression. Pansy and vinca plants grown in uninoculated substrates amended with Subtilex had significantly higher shoot dry weights than those grown in unamended substrates. Pansy, vinca and tomato plants grown in uninoculated substrates amended with SG-11 had significantly higher shoot dry weights than those grown in unamended substrates.