Hanging basket (HB) production alters the light environment in the lower canopy of ornamental greenhouses by intercepting and altering the spectral quality of incoming light. If shading is sufficiently high, the quality of the lower crops can be reduced. This work investigated changes in light quantity and quality at the lower crop level caused by HB production in Ontario, Canada. Light sampling occurred at three commercial greenhouse facilities throughout the Spring 2012 HB season. The greenhouses represented a range of HB densities (1.8, 2.4, and 3.0 baskets/m2) and different HB canopy architectures (one, two, and three tiers of HBs). Light samples were taken at three fixed locations within each greenhouse facility: outside, HB level, and lower crop level. Photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) was logged continuously at each location within each greenhouse environment. Spectral scans were made at each sampling location, within each greenhouse facility, at various times throughout the season to assess how HB production altered the red to far red ratio (R:FR) at lower crop level. As the season progressed, outdoor daily light integrals (DLIs) more than doubled from <20 to >40 mol·m−2·d−1. Light reduction caused by polyethylene films and structural components varied among locations, but remained steady throughout the season, averaging 48.3% for the three locations. As the HB crops matured, the rate of decrease in PAR at lower crop level varied according to facility and HB density with mean reductions of 42.5%, 32.6%, and 37.7% for the one-, two-, and three-tiered facilities, respectively. Mean lower crop level DLIs were all very similar, between 9.4 and 9.9 mol·m−2·d−1. Accordingly, there may be insufficient light below HB canopies to produce high-quality crops of many varieties of bedding plants that are commonly grown in Ontario. The one- and two-tiered systems reduced the R:FR at lower crop level by 14% and 10%, respectively, whereas the three-tiered system caused no reduction. More work is required to determine if the observed far red shift is sufficient to alter crop quality. These case studies provide a backdrop against which to help determine and interpret horticultural management strategies for a variety of greenhouse crops.
David Llewellyn, Youbin Zheng, and Mike Dixon
Deron Caplan, Mike Dixon, and Youbin Zheng
In the expanding North American medical cannabis industry, growers lack reliable and systematically investigated information on the horticultural management of their crops, especially with regard to nutrient management and growing substrates. To evaluate organic substrates and their optimal nutrient management, five rates that supplied 57, 113, 170, 226, and 283 mg N/L of a liquid organic fertilizer (2.00N–0.87P–3.32K) were applied to container-grown plants [Cannabis sativa L. ‘WP:Med (Wappa)’] in two coir-based organic substrates. The trial was conducted in a walk-in growth chamber and the two substrates used were ABcann UNIMIX 2-HP (U2-HP) with lower container capacity (CC) and ABcann UNIMIX 2 (U2) with higher CC. U2-HP produced 11% higher floral dry weight (yield), 13% higher growth index (GI), 20% higher ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration, 57% higher THC yield (per plant), 22% higher Δ9-tetrahydrocannabidiolic acid (THCA) yield, and 20% higher cannabigerolic acid (CBGA) yield than U2. Increasing fertilizer rate led to increased growth and yield but also to a dilution of THC, THCA, and CBGA. In U2-HP, to maximize both yield and cannabinoid yield, the optimal organic fertilizer rates were those which supplied 212–261 mg N/L. For U2, the highest applied rate, that supplied 283 mg N/L, maximized yield; although lower rates delivered higher cannabinoid concentrations in dry floral material. The results on these substrates and recommended fertilizer rates can serve as a guide when using other organic fertilizers and substrates; although results may differ with cannabis variety.
Youbin Zheng, Diane Feliciano Cayanan, and Mike Dixon
To determine the optimum feeding nutrient solution concentrations for the production of potted miniature roses (Rosa chineersis minima ‘Fall Festival’) under recirculating subirrigation conditions, plants were grown under four different nutrient solution concentrations [25%, 50%, 75%, and 100% of the full strength with an electrical conductivity (EC) of 1.756 dS·m−1]. Nutrient solution concentrations affected the stem, root, and plant total dry weight and flower and branch number. Under the 75% strength nutrient solution, these growth parameters were equal to or better than the 100% strength solution. No difference was detected in the chlorophyll content of leaves from plants that received the 50%, 75%, and 100% strength solutions during the experiment but at Day 35; only the 25% treatment had significantly lower leaf chlorophyll content than the other treatments. There were no treatment effects on the measured total foliar nutrient contents [except potassium (K)] of plants under the 75% strength solution compared with those under the 100% treatment, but nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and/or iron (Fe) of plants under the 25% strength solutions were below that of the acceptable range. Interveinal chlorosis and/or reddish leaves and branches were also apparent in plants under the 25% and 50% strength solutions. It is suspected that these are symptoms of N, P, and Fe deficiencies caused by the reduced nutrient solution concentrations and increased pH of the growing substrate. There were significant depletions of N and P nutrients in the 25% and 50% strength solutions at the end of the experiment, which was consistent with visual symptoms and deficiencies. Nutrient salts accumulated in the top section of the growing substrate under all treatments, but no phytotoxic effects were observed. The EC values for the top third of the growing substrate were much higher than those of the bottom two-thirds. EC for the top layer of the 100% treatment exhibited a fourfold increase compared with the bottom layer of that treatment. The NO3 –, K, magnesium, and calcium for the top layer of the 100% treatment were 235%, 149%, 287%, and 245%, respectively, higher compared with the bottom layer of the 100% treatment. It was concluded that the nutrient solution concentrations typically used for potted miniature rose production in most of the Canadian greenhouses under recirculating subirrigation conditions can be safely reduced to 75% and produce better plants.
Youbin Zheng, Linping Wang, and Mike Dixon
Copper (electrolytically generated or from cupric sulfate) is increasingly used to control diseases and algae in the greenhouse industry. However, there is a shortage of information regarding appropriate management strategies for Cu2+ (Cu) in greenhouse hydroponic production. Three greenhouse studies were conducted to examine the growth and yield responses of sweet pepper (Capsicum annuum L., Triple 4, red) to the application of Cu in hydroponic production systems. In the first two experiments, plants were grown on rockwool and irrigated with nutrient solutions containing Cu at concentrations of 0.05, 0.55, 1.05, 1.55, and 2.05 mg·L–1. Copper treatments were started either when plants were 32 days old and continued for 4 weeks, or when plants were 11 weeks old and continued for 18 weeks, respectively. In the third experiment, roots of solution cultured pepper seedlings were exposed to Cu (1.0, 1.5, and 2.0 mg·L–1) containing nutrient solutions for 2 hours per day for 3 weeks. Higher Cu treatment initialized when plants were 32 days old significantly reduced plant leaf number, leaf area, leaf biomass, specific leaf area, stem length and shoot biomass. The calculated Cu toxicity threshold was 0.19 mg·L–1. However, when treatment initialized at plants were 11 weeks old, Cu did not have significant effects on leaf chlorophyll content, leaf area or specific leaf area. Copper started to show significant negative effects on leaf biomass and shoot biomass at 1.05 mg·L–1 or higher levels. Copper treatments did not have any significant effect on fruit number, fresh weight or dry weight. Under all the Cu levels, fresh fruit copper contents were lower than 0.95 mg·kg–1 which is below the drinking water standard of 1.3 mg·kg–1. Seedling growth was significantly reduced by exposing roots to Cu (≥1.0 mg·L–1) containing solutions even for only 2 h·d–1.
Deron Caplan, Mike Dixon, and Youbin Zheng
Controlled application of drought can increase secondary metabolite concentrations in some essential oil-producing crops. To evaluate the effects of drought on cannabis (Cannabis sativa L.) inflorescence dry weight and cannabinoid content, drought stress was applied to container-grown cannabis plants through gradual growing substrate drying under controlled environment. Fertigation was withheld during week 7 in the flowering stage until midday plant water potential (WP) was approximately −1.5 MPa (drought stress threshold). This occurred after 11 days without fertigation. A well-irrigated control was used for comparison. Leaf net photosynthetic rate (Pn), plant WP, wilting (leaf angle), and volumetric moisture content (VMC) were monitored throughout the drying period until the day after the drought group was fertigated. At the drought stress threshold, Pn was 42% lower and plant WP was 50% lower in the drought group than the control. Upon harvest, drought-stressed plants had increased concentrations of major cannabinoids tetrahydrocannabinol acid (THCA) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) by 12% and 13%, respectively, compared with the control. Further, yield per unit growing area of THCA was 43% higher than the control, CBDA yield was 47% higher, ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) yield was 50% higher, and cannabidiol (CBD) yield was 67% higher. Controlled drought stress may therefore be an effective horticultural management technique to maximize both inflorescence dry weight and cannabinoid yield in cannabis, although results may differ by cannabis cultivar or chemotype.
Youbin Zheng, Linping Wang, and Mike A. Dixon
Electrolytically generated copper is increasingly used to control diseases and algae in the greenhouse industry. However, there is a shortage of information regarding appropriate management strategies for copper in ornamental crop production. The objectives of this study were to characterize the response of three ornamental crops (Dendranthema ×grandiflorum L. `Fina', Rosa ×hybrida L. `Lavlinger', Pelargonium ×hortorum L. `Evening Glow') to different solution levels of Cu2+ (ranging from 0.4 to 40 μm) and to determine the critical levels above which toxic responses became apparent. The following measurements were used to assess the treatments: leaf chlorophyll fluorescence (Fv/Fm), leaf chlorophyll content, and visible injury of leaf and root. Excessive copper reduced plant root length, root dry weight, total dry weight, root to shoot ratio, leaf area, and specific leaf area in all three species. The critical solution level of Cu2+ that resulted in significantly reduced plant dry weight for chrysanthemum was 5 μm; for miniature rose, 2.4; and for geranium, 8 μm. Plant visible root injury was a more sensitive and reliable copper toxicity indicator than visible leaf injury, leaf chlorophyll content, Fv/Fm, or leaf and stem copper content. Generally, all the species exhibited some sensitivity to Cu2+ in solution culture, with chrysanthemum and miniature rose being most sensitive and geranium being least sensitive. Caution should be taken when applying copper in solution culture production systems.
Deron Caplan, Mike Dixon, and Youbin Zheng
Cannabis producers, especially those with organic operations, lack reliable information on the fertilization requirements for their crops. To determine the optimal organic fertilizer rate for vegetative-stage cannabis (Cannabis sativa L.), five rates that supplied 117, 234, 351, 468, and 585 mg N/L of a liquid organic fertilizer (4.0N–1.3P–1.7K) were applied to container-grown plants with one of two coir-based organic substrates. The trial was conducted in a walk-in growth chamber and the two substrates used were ABcann UNIMIX 1-HP with lower water-holding capacity (WHC) and ABcann UNIMIX 1 with higher WHC. No differences in growth or floral dry weight (yield) were found between the two substrates. Pooled data from both substrates showed that the highest yield was achieved at a rate that supplied 389 mg N/L (interpolated from yield-fertilizer responses) which was 1.8 times higher than that of the lowest fertilizer rate. The concentration of ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in dry floral material was maximized at a rate that supplied 418 mg N/L, and no fertilizer rate effects were observed on Δ9-tetrahydrocannabidiolic acid (THCA) or cannabinol (CBN). The highest yield, cannabinoid content, and plant growth were achieved around an organic fertilizer rate that supplied 389 mg N/L during the vegetative growth stage when using the two coir-based organic substrates.
Youbin Zheng, Ping Zhang, and Mike Dixon
To evaluate the performance of four newly developed high-intensity-discharge lamp types on plant growth and production, tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum cv. Tradiro F1) plants were grown indoors under 100% artificial lighting for 17 weeks. The four lamp types were: high-pressure sodium high output [HPS(HO)], high-pressure sodium standard [HPS(STD)], metal halide warm deluxe [MH(WDX)] and metal halide cool deluxe [MH(CDX)]. All the lamps tested were 1000 W. HPS(HO) had the highest electrical energy use efficiency (EUE) (0.98 μmol·m–2·s–1·W–1 at 40 cm directly under the lamp); HPS(STD), MH(WDX) and MH(CDX) had 93%, 72% and 61% of the EUE of the HPS(HO), respectively. The photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) outputs of different lamp types had the following order: HPS(HO) > HPS(STD) > MH(WDX) > MH(CDX). The percentage red of PAR of the four tested lamp types had the same order as above, but the percentage blue of PAR of these lamp types had exactly the opposite order. As a result, plants growing under the two HPS lamp types were taller and flowered and fruited earlier than plants under the two MH lamp types. Chlorophyll content index was generally greater in leaves under MH lamps than in leaves under HPS lamps. We recommend that the HPS lamp be used for flowering and fruiting crops and the MH lamp would be better used for foliar and compact crops.
Youbin Zheng*, Thomas Graham, Stefan Richard, and Mike Dixon
Pot gerbera (Gerbera jamesonii Var. `Shogun') plants were subirrigated with one of four nutrient solutions (10, 25, 50, and 100% of full strength) in order to determine whether currently used commercial nutrient solution concentrations can be reduced without negative impact on crop production. Nutrient concentration levels did not affect leaf area, flower number and appearance, and plant total dry weight. There were no significant differences in leaf chlorophyll content between the plants that received the 50 and 100% strength nutrient solutions. It is concluded that nutrient solution concentrations typically used in commercial greenhouse, for pot gerbera production, can be safely reduced by at least 50% without adversely affecting crop production. Nutrients accumulated in the top section of the growth substrate under all treatment levels; however, no phytotoxic effect was observed. Fertilizer inputs were reduced in the 50%, 25%, and 10% treatments by 54%, 75%, and 90% respectively. After 4 weeks recirculating, the quality of the nutrient solutions was still within acceptable limits.
Youbin Zheng, Linping Wang, Diane Feliciano Cayanan, and Mike Dixon
To determine the nutrient solution copper (Cu2+) level above which Cucumis sativus L. (cucumber, cv. LOGICA F1) plant growth and fruit yield will be negatively affected, plants were grown on rockwool and irrigated with nutrient solutions containing Cu2+ at 0.05, 0.55, 1.05, 1.55, and 2.05 mg·L−1. Copper treatment began when plants were 4 weeks old and lasted for 10 weeks. During this 10-week period, plants were harvested at 3 weeks (short-term) and 10 weeks (long-term) after the start of Cu2+ treatment. Neither visible leaf injury nor negative Cu2+ effect was observed on plant growth (leaf number, leaf area, leaf dry weight, and stem dry weight) after 3 weeks of continuous Cu2+ treatment. However, after 10 weeks of continuous Cu2+ application, cucumber leaf dry weight was significantly reduced by Cu2+ levels 1.05 mg·L−1 or greater; leaf number, leaf area, and stem dry weight were significantly reduced by Cu2+ levels 1.55 mg·L−1 or greater. Copper (Cu2+ levels 1.05 mg·L−1 or greater) also caused root browning. Some plants under the 2.05 mg·L−1 Cu2+ treatment started to wilt after 6 weeks of continuous Cu2+ treatment. Copper treatment did not result in any change in leaf greenness until after Week 9 from the start of the treatments. There was no sign of a negative Cu2+ effect on cucumber fruit numbers after the first 2 weeks of production, but plants under the highest Cu2+ concentration treatment (2.05 mg·L−1) gradually produced fewer cucumber fruit than the control (0.05 mg·L−1) and eventually resulted in lower cucumber yield. Nutrient solution can be treated with 1.05 mg·L−1 of Cu2+ in cucumber production greenhouses; however, it is not recommended to use Cu2+ concentrations 1.05 mg·L−1 or greater continuously long-term (more than 3 weeks). When applying Cu2+, it is suggested that cucumber roots be examined regularly because roots are a better indicator for Cu2+ toxicity than leaf injury.