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Shuyang Zhen and Stephanie E. Burnett

There is currently little information regarding the impact of soil moisture on morphology and physiology of English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia). Therefore, our goal was to determine the impact of substrate volumetric water content (θ = volume of water ÷ volume of substrate) on this plant. We grew ‘Munstead’ and ‘Hidcote’ lavender at one of four θ: 0.1, 0.2, 0.3, or 0.4 L·L−1 for 54 days using a capacitance sensor-automated irrigation system. Plant height, greatest width, inflorescence number, and total leaf number and area of both cultivars increased with increasing θ. Shoot fresh and dry weight of lavender irrigated at θ 0.3 L·L−1 was generally twice that of those grown at the lowest θ (0.1 L·L−1). Leaf-level instantaneous net photosynthetic rate (AN) and transpiration (E) of ‘Munstead’ decreased with decreasing θ. This reduction in AN was likely due to the concurrent reduction in stomatal conductance (g S) at lower θ. Similar reductions in AN, E, and g S of ‘Hidcote’ were observed at lower θ (0.2 and 0.3 L·L−1) 5 weeks after the initiation of the study, but not at the end of the study probably due to acclimation of ‘Hidcote’ to mild drought.

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Stephanie E. Burnett and Lois Berg Stack

Organic and conventional greenhouse growers in Maine were surveyed to determine the research needs of growers who may produce organic ornamental bedding plants. Organic growers were also asked to identify their greatest motivator to determine whether they feel that there is a greater market for organically grown ornamental plants. The greatest percentage (75%) of organic growers indicated that they choose to grow plants organically because “it's the right thing to do.” The second greatest percentage (36%) of organic growers choose organic production techniques for ornamental plants because they grow food crops organically and consider it convenient to use only one production technique. A relatively small number of organic growers (7%) considered the market for organic ornamental plants to be a strong motivator for growing organically. Organic growers were asked to select production issues that pose the greatest challenge for them from a list of common production problems. They considered insect and disease management and organic fertility, substrate, and pH management to be their greatest problems. Conventional growers primarily avoid organic production techniques because they consider organic fertilization or organic insect management to be too big of a challenge. Because organic and conventional growers consider insect and fertility or substrate management to be challenges facing organic growers, these topics should be top priorities for future research on organic greenhouse production.

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Stephanie E. Burnett and Marc W. van Iersel

Gaura lindheimeri Engelm. & Gray ‘Siskiyou Pink’ (gaura) and Phlox paniculata L. ‘David’ (garden phlox) were grown for 5 weeks in substrates irrigated at volumetric water contents (Θ) of 0.10, 0.15, 0.20, 0.25, 0.30, 0.35, 0.40, or 0.45 m3·m−3 using a capacitance sensor-controlled irrigation system. Volumetric water contents of the substrate measured by the capacitance sensors controlling irrigation were correlated with measurements with a separate handheld meter (r 2 = 0.83) and with volumetric water content set points throughout the study (r 2 > 0.98). Only 3.8 (at an irrigation set point of 0.10 m3·m−3) to 53 L (0.45 m3·m−3) of water was used to irrigate gaura and phlox and 0 to 7.74 L of this water leached out of the substrates. Significant leaching occurred only at Θ set points of 0.40, or 0.45 m3·m−3. Gaura had shorter and fewer branches and reduced dry weight when grown at lower volumetric water contents, but plants irrigated at set points above 0.25 m3·m−3 were large enough to be marketable. Gaura may be grown with capacitance sensor-automated irrigation using water efficiently and minimizing or eliminating leachate and thus nonpoint source pollution.

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Bryan J. Peterson, Stephanie E. Burnett and Olivia Sanchez

Although overhead mist revolutionized the propagation industry, it does suffer from potential drawbacks that include the application of large volumes of water, potentially unsanitary conditions, irregular misting coverage, and leaching of foliar nutrients. We explored the feasibility of submist as an alternative as it might avoid these problems by applying water exclusively from below the cutting, which is inserted basally into an enclosed rooting chamber. We propagated cuttings of korean lilac (Syringa pubescens ssp. patula) and inkberry (Ilex glabra) using both overhead mist and submist to compare effectiveness of the systems. Cuttings of korean lilac were wounded and dipped basally into 8000 mg·L−1 of the potassium salt of indole-3-butyric acid (K-IBA), and those in the overhead mist systems were inserted into coarse perlite. Cuttings of inkberry were wounded and treated with 5000 mg·L−1 K-IBA, and those in the overhead mist systems were inserted into 50:50 peat:perlite (by vol). Cuttings of korean lilac in the submist systems produced more than twice as many roots as cuttings in the overhead mist systems, with roots more than 2.6 times the length. Similarly, cuttings of inkberry in the submist systems produced more than three times the root counts and root lengths as cuttings in the overhead mist systems. For korean lilac, root dry weights averaged 58 mg for cuttings in the submist system, compared with only 18 mg among cuttings receiving overhead mist. Likewise, root dry weights averaged 70 and 7 mg for cuttings of inkberry propagated by submist and overhead mist, respectively. Rooted cuttings of korean lilac transplanted well into a soilless substrate, where they more than tripled their root biomass to 218 mg (vs. 59 mg for cuttings transplanted from overhead mist). We did not evaluate transplant performance of inkberry. Our results show that submist systems might merit consideration for the propagation of woody plants by leafy stem cuttings.

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Stephanie E. Burnett, Marc W. van Iersel and Paul A. Thomas

French marigold (Tagetes patula L. `Boy Orange') was grown in a peat-based growing medium containing different rates (0, 15, 20, 30, 42, or 50 g·L–1) of polyethylene glycol 8000 (PEG-8000) to determine if PEG-8000 would reduce seedling height. Only 28% to 55% of seedlings treated with 62, 72, or 83 g·L–1 of PEG-8000 survived, and these treatments would be commercially unacceptable. Marigolds treated with the remaining concentrations of PEG-8000 had shorter hypocotyls, and were up to 38% shorter than nontreated controls at harvest. Marigold cotyledon water (ψw), osmotic (ψs), and turgor (ψp) potentials were significantly reduced by PEG-8000, and ψp was close to zero for all PEG-treated seedlings 18 days after seeding. Whole-plant net photosynthesis, whole-plant dark respiration, and net photosynthesis/leaf area ratios were reduced by PEG-8000, while specific respiration of seedlings treated with PEG-8000 increased. Marigolds treated with concentrations greater than 30 g·L–1 of PEG-8000 had net photosynthesis rates that were close to zero. Fourteen days after transplanting, PEG-treated marigolds were still shorter than nontreated seedlings and they flowered up to 5 days later. Concentrations of PEG from 15 to 30 g·L–1 reduced elongation of marigold seedlings without negatively affecting germination, survival, or plant quality. It appears that marigold seedlings were shorter because of reduced leaf ψp and reductions in net photosynthesis.

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Svoboda V. Pennisi, Marc W. van Iersel and Stephanie E. Burnett

The growth of three english ivy cultivars in ebb-and-flow subirrigation systems was examined under three photosynthetic photon flux (PPF) treatments (low, medium, or high, corresponding to an average daily PPF of 3.2, 5.4, or 8.5 mol·m–2·d–1, respectively) and four fertilizer concentrations (0, 100, 200, or 300 mg·L–1 N) geared toward production of acclimatized foliage plants. Marketable quality english ivy can be subirrigated with 100 mg·L–1 N. Although 8.5 mol.m–2.d–1 produced the maximum shoot dry weight (SDW), good quality plants also were produced under 5.4 mol·m–2·d–1. `Gold Child', `Gold Dust', and `Gold Heart' english ivy produced with low fertility and low light may be better acclimatized and show superior performance in interior environments. Under light levels lower than 8.5 mol·m–2·d–1, `Gold Heart' had less variegation (12% or 21% for ivy grown under 3.2 or 5.4 mol·m–2·d–1, respectively). `Gold Dust' and `Gold Child' had 65% and 22% variegated leaf area, respectively, when grown under 5.4 mol·m–2·d–1 PPF. Under 5.4 mol·m–2·d–1 PPF, `Gold Dust' retains attractive foliage with overall perception of increased lighter-green coloration.

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Jongyun Kim, Marc W. van Iersel and Stephanie E. Burnett

Many ornamental plant growers water excessively to reduce the risk of drought stress. Scheduling irrigation in greenhouses is challenging because there is little quantitative information about ornamental plant water requirements and how water use changes when plants are grown in varying greenhouse environmental conditions. Models to estimate the daily water use (DWU) of greenhouse crops may provide a useful tool to conserve irrigation water. Our objective was to develop a model to predict DWU based on plant age and easily acquirable environmental data. Two petunia (Petunia ×hybrida) cultivars, Single Dreams Pink and Prostrate Easy Wave Pink, were grown in different sized containers (diameter = 10, 12.5, and 15 cm) to quantify their DWU for 6 weeks. The substrate water content (θ, v/v) was maintained at 0.40 m3·m−3 using an automated irrigation system with capacitance soil moisture sensors. Every irrigation event was recorded by a data logger, and this information was used to calculate the DWU of the plants. On overcast days early in the experiment, plants used only 4.8 to 13.8 mL·d−1. The maximum DWU of ‘Single Dreams Pink’ was 63, 96, and 109 mL·d−1 in 10-, 12.5-, and 15-cm containers, respectively. Late in the experiment, ‘Prostrate Easy Wave Pink’ petunia used more water than ‘Single Dreams Pink’ because of their more vigorous growth habit. DWU was modeled as a function of days after planting (DAP), daily light integral (DLI), vapor pressure deficit (VPD), temperature, container size, and interactions between these factors and DAP (R 2 = 0.93 and 0.91 for ‘Single Dreams Pink’ and ‘Prostrate Easy Wave Pink’, respectively). Days after planting and container size were the most important factors affecting DWU and are indicative of plant size. Daily light integral was the most important environmental factor affecting DWU. These models, describing the DWU as a function of the DAP and environmental conditions, may be used as guidelines for accurately watering petunias in greenhouses and may improve irrigation scheduling.

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Stephanie E. Burnett, Donglin Zhang, Lois B. Stack and Zhongqi He

In commercial greenhouses, fan flower ‘Whirlwind Blue’ (Scaevola aemula R. Br.) plants are sensitive to phosphorus applications in the range typically applied to other floricultural crops. To quantify this response, fan flower plants were grown in Hoagland solutions containing 0, 20, 40, 60, or 80 mg·L−1 P. Plants fertilized with either the highest (80 mg·L−1) or lowest (0 mg·L−1) P concentrations had significantly shorter stems and smaller shoot dry weights and leaf areas than plants fertilized with 20 to 60 mg·L−1 P. Low or high P concentrations negatively impacted flower number; fan flower fertilized with 0, 60, or 80 mg·L−1 P had fewer flowering branches and flowers compared with plants fertilized with 20 to 40 mg·L−1 P. Plants receiving no P had longer roots than those receiving any P and had greater root dry weights than plants receiving all other P concentrations except 20 mg·L−1. Foliar nutrient analysis indicated that although P treatments significantly impacted foliar concentrations of at least some essential macro- and micronutrients, all essential elements were within or near recommended ranges except P. Foliar P concentrations exceeded 1 mg·g−1 in fan flower that received even the lowest concentration of supplemental P, but leaf chlorosis was only observed in plants grown in 60 to 80 mg·L−1 P. As a result of rapid accumulation of P in fan flower foliage and subsequent reductions in flower number and shoot elongation, fan flower should be fertilized with no more than 20 mg·L−1 P.

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Gwendolyn Hawkins, Stephanie E. Burnett and Lois B. Stack

In 2008, we administered a survey to participants at four venues in Maine to determine: 1) the degree of interest in organically, sustainably, and locally grown plants; 2) whether respondents would pay more for these plants compared with conventional plants; and 3) which demographic groups expressed the greatest interest in organically, sustainably, or locally grown plants. Respondents were highly interested in organic and sustainable vegetable/herb and ornamental plants; median interest was 9 on a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 indicated low interest and 10 indicated high interest. They were less interested in locally grown plants; respondents’ median interest in local plants was 6 on the same scale. Survey respondents stated that they would pay 15% more (vegetable/herbs) or 10% more (ornamentals) for organic, sustainable, or local plants than they would for conventionally grown plants. Several demographic factors indicated that respondents were either willing to spend more money on nonconventional plants, or were at least more interested in these kinds of plants. Income and education were positively correlated with the amount of money respondents stated they would spend on nonconventional plants. Younger participants were more interested than older participants in sustainable and organic plants, but they were not willing to pay more for these plants than older participants. Similarly, women were more interested than men in nonconventional plants, but were not likely to spend more on them than men. This survey indicated that there is a strong market for organic and sustainable vegetable, herb, and ornamental plants. Growers could potentially charge 10% to 15% more for these plants than for conventionally grown plants. They would likely receive the highest premium for organic and sustainable plants from individuals with higher incomes and education levels.

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Shuyang Zhen, Stephanie E. Burnett, Michael E. Day and Marc W. van Iersel

Two experiments were conducted to determine how different substrate volumetric water contents (θ equals volume of water per volume of substrate) affected morphology and physiology of three popular perennials using a capacitance sensor-automated irrigation system. In the first study, rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) was grown at one of eight θ set points ranging from 0.05 to 0.40 L·L−1. In the second study, Canadian columbine (Aquilegia canadensis ‘Pink Lanterns’) and cheddar pink (Dianthus gratianopolitanus ‘Bath’s Pink’) were grown at one of nine θ set points ranging from 0.05 to 0.45 L·L−1. Total leaf number and area as well as shoot fresh and dry weight of rosemary plants grown at θ of 0.20 L·L−1 or greater were approximately twice that of those grown at lower θ. Canadian columbine height increased as θ increased. Leaf area of cheddar pink grown at θ of 0.35 L·L−1 or higher was twice that of plants grown at the lowest θ. Shoot dry weight of Canadian columbine was not significantly affected by θ. Shoot dry weight of cheddar pink responded quadratically to increasing θ and peaked at θ of 0.35 L·L−1. θ also significantly influenced photosynthetic activities; net photosynthetic rate (AN) and stomatal conductance (g s) of Canadian columbine increased with increasing θ. AN of cheddar pink also increased as θ increased. Greater water volumes were applied to maintain higher θ set points. Irrigation water use efficiency (IWUE = shoot dry weight ÷ total amount of water applied per plant) of Canadian columbine and cheddar pink was not influenced by θ. Growth of all three plants was reduced when grown at lower θ; in the case of cheddar pink and Canadian columbine, this was attributable at least in part to reduced AN.