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  • Author or Editor: Sandra Menasha x
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Sweet corn (Zea mays L.) is difficult to transplant due to poor root regeneration. Despite reduced yields, growers are transplanting sweet corn to hasten maturity time to target profitable early markets in the Northeast. Researchers have ascribed the negative impacts on yield to restricted rooting volume. Therefore, the impacts plug cell volume had on sweet corn transplant root architecture and biomass accumulation were investigated. `Temptation' sweet corn was sown in volumes of 15, 19, 14, and 29 mL correlating to transplant plug trays with plug counts of 200, 162, 128, and 72 plugs per tray. Plug cells were exposed to three substrate environments; a dairy manure based organic compost media, a commercial soil-less germination mix, and the soil-less media supplemented 2X with 200 ppm soluble 3-3-3 organic fertilizer. A 4 × 3 factorial randomized complete-block experimental design with two blocks and five replicates per treatment was repeated twice in the greenhouse. For each experiment a total of three center cells were harvested from each replicate for analysis using the WinRhizo Pro root scanning system (Regent Instruments Inc., Montreal). Three cells per treatment were also transplanted into 8-inch pots to stimulate field transplanting. Based on mean separation tests (n = 30), increased cell volume before transplanting significantly increased root surface area, average diameter, and root volume after transplanting (n = 18). Mean root surface area for a 29-mL cell was 30% greater than a 15-mL cell before transplanting and 22% greater after transplanting. Plug cell volume also significantly impacted shoot and root biomass (P <0.0001). A 14-mL increase in cell volume resulted in a root and shoot dry weight increase of about 15%.

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Transplanting sweet corn is commonly practiced in the northeast U.S. to improve stand establishment and promote early harvest. However, early spring storms and labor constraints can delay transplanting when establishment is most desirable. `Temptation' sugary enhanced (se) sweet corn transplants 0-, 2-, 4-, 6-, and 8-days-old beyond the “grower” 2-week growth period were field planted to explore the effects delayed planting combined with plug cell volume differences would have on transplant ear quality and early yields. The transplant treatments were evaluated in a two-way factorial (five delayed planting dates × three plug volumes) arranged in a split-plot design with five replications. Field sites were the whole plot treatment and the factorial treatments were the split-plots. All transplants were planted on 24 May 2004 at the two field sites. The final density was ≈22,000 plants/acre. Transplant cell volume (15, 19, and 29 mL) had no significant effect on ear quality and total marketable yield. Ear length was significantly affected by field site (P≤ 0.0001) and ear diameter was significantly affected by planting delay (P= 0.0145). Field site (P≤ 0.0001) and planting delay (P= 0.0090) both significantly affected the number of early marketable ears/acre. The results indicate that transplants can remain in the plug cells up to 20 days (2 weeks + 6 day delay) before the delay negatively impacts ear diameter, tip fill, and early marketable yield.

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