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  • Author or Editor: Neal Eash x
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Controlling irrigation using timers or manually operated systems is the most common irrigation scheduling method in outdoor container production systems. Improving irrigation efficiency can be achieved by scheduling irrigation based on plant water needs and the appropriate use of sensors rather than relying on periodically adjusting irrigation volume based on perceived water needs. Substrate amendments such as biochar, a carbon (C)-rich by-product of pyrolysis or gasification, can increase the amount of available water and improve irrigation efficiency and plant growth. Previous work examined two on-demand irrigation schedules in controlled indoor (greenhouse) environments. The goal of this study was to evaluate the impact of these on-demand irrigation schedules and hardwood biochar on water use and biomass gain of container-grown Hydrangea paniculata ‘Silver Dollar’ in a typical outdoor nursery production environment. Eighteen independently controlled irrigation zones were designed to test three irrigation schedules on ‘Silver Dollar’ hydrangea grown in pine bark amended with 0% or 25% hardwood biochar. The three irrigation schedules were conventional irrigation and two on-demand schedules, which were based on substrate physical properties or plant physiology. Conventional irrigation delivered 1.8 cm water in one event each day. The scheduling of substrate-based irrigation was based on the soilless substrate moisture characteristic curve, applying water whenever the substrate water content corresponding to a substrate water potential of –10 kPa was reached. The plant-based irrigation schedule was based on a specific substrate moisture content derived from a previously defined relationship between substrate moisture content and photosynthetic rate, maintaining the volumetric water content (VWC) to support photosynthesis at 90% of the maximum predicted photosynthetic rate. Total water use for the substrate-based irrigation was the same as for the conventional system; the plant-based system used significantly less water. However, plant dry weight was 22% and 15% greater, water use efficiency (WUE) was 40% and 40% greater, and total leachate volume was 25% and 30% less for the substrate-based and plant-based irrigation scheduling systems, respectively, than for conventional irrigation. The 25% biochar amendment rate reduced leachate volume per irrigation event, and leaching fraction, but did not affect total water use or plant dry weight. This research demonstrated that on-demand irrigation scheduling that is plant based or substrate based could be an effective approach to increase WUE for container-grown nursery crops without affecting plant growth negatively.

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Three new Chrysanthemum ×hybrida, garden chrysanthemum cultivars: Red Daisy, White Daisy, and Coral Daisy, are the first in the Mammoth™ series that are advanced interspecific hybrids derived from an open-pollinated cross between hexaploid C. weyrichii (Maxim.) Tzvelv. × C. ×grandiflora Tzvelv. These cultivars are backcross or inbred derivatives of the original interspecific F1 hybrids. All three cultivars are U.S. Department of Agriculture Z3b (−34.4 °C to −37.2 °C) winter-hardy herbaceous perennials exhibiting a shrub habit with the cushion phenotype. Additional traits exhibited by these three cultivars are butterfly attractants, frost tolerance of the flowers, and genetic ‘self-pinching.’ These Mammoth™ cultivars are clonally propagated, virus indexed, protected by U.S. Plant Patents and Canadian Plant Breeder's Rights, and are available from the North American exclusive licensee Ball Seed Company.

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Mammoth™ ‘Twilight Pink Daisy’ (U.S. Plant Patent 14,455; Canadian Plant Breeders’ Rights Certificate No. 4192) is an interspecific garden chrysanthemum cultivar, Chrysanthemum ×hybridum Anderson (= Dendranthema ×hybrida Anderson) with common names of hardy mum, chrysanthemum, and garden mum. It is a new and distinct form of shrub-type garden mums in the Mammoth™ series with rosy-pink ray florets, a dark “eye” color in the center of the disc florets, frost-tolerant flower petals, and self-pinching growth. This cultivar is a butterfly attractant in the garden. Mammoth™ ‘Twilight Pink Daisy’ is a winter-hardy herbaceous perennial in USDA Z3b–Z9 (Southeast)/Zone 10 (West) with its cushion growth form displaying extreme hybrid vigor, increasing in plant height from 0.46 m in its first year to a shrub of 0.76 to 1.22 m in the second year and thereafter with greater than 3000 leaves/plant. Flowering is prolific, covering the entire plant at full flowering with as many as greater than 3500 flowers in the second year. Chemical abbreviations: ethanol (EtOH), indole-3-butyric acid (IBA).

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