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Yanjun Guo, Terri Starman, and Charles Hall

Retail environments are rarely optimal for ornamental plants, and wilting caused by water stress is a major cause of postproduction shrinkage. The objective of this study was to determine the effect of two levels of substrate moisture content (SMC) applied during greenhouse production on angelonia (Angelonia angustifolia) ‘Angelface Blue’ and heliotrope (Heliotropium arborescens) ‘Simply Scentsational’ growth and physiological parameters and subsequent postproduction quality during simulated retail conditions. At the end of production, angelonia total plant shoot dry weight (DW) was reduced with 20% SMC compared with 40% SMC, and plants grown with 20% SMC had higher shoot coloring percentage, reduced internode length, and required less irrigation labor–related costs compared with 40% SMC. Heliotrope grown at 20% SMC produced the same size plant as 40% SMC, but had a higher shoot coloring percentage at the end of production and postproduction, indicating lower SMC resulted in higher visual quality compared with 40% SMC. For both species, 20% SMC increased plant visual quality compared with 40% SMC and reduced irrigation water input throughout production, resulting in reduced production costs and increased floral crop economic value.

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Yanjun Guo, Terri Starman, and Charles Hall

The objective was to determine the effect of substrate moisture content (SMC) during poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) greenhouse production on plant quality, postproduction longevity, and economic value. Two experiments were conducted, one in 2016 with ‘Freedom Red’ and the other in 2017 with ‘Christmas Eve Red’. Treatments included two SMC levels (20% or 40%) applied in four timing of application combinations. Total production (TP) time was 14 (2016) or 12 (2017) weeks in which vegetative production (VP) occurred from week 33 (2016) or 35 (2017) to week 39 and reproductive production (RP) continued from week 40 to 47. The four timing of application treatments were 40/40 = TP at 40% SMC; 20/40 = VP at 20% + RP at 40%; 40/20 = VP at 40% + RP at 20%; 20/20 = TP at 20% SMC. After simulated shipping in the dark, plants were evaluated in a simulated retail environment with two packaging treatments: no sleeve covering or plastic perforated plant sleeves covering container and plant. At the end of greenhouse production, plants grown in 20% SMC during RP (20/20 and 40/20) had shorter bract internode length, stem length, and smaller growth index (GI), decreased shoot and root dry weight (DW), and bract and leaf surface area compared with those in 40% SMC during RP (40/40 and 20/40). Photosynthetic rate was higher when plants were watered at 40% SMC regardless of production stage compared with those in 20% SMC. Leaf thickness, petiole thickness, total bract and leaf number were unaffected by SMC treatments. Plants in 20% SMC during RP (20/20 or 40/20) had earlier bract coloring despite days to anthesis being the same for all SMC treatments. Compared with 40/40, 40/20, and 20/20 could save 44.2% or 43.6%, respectively, irrigation and fertilizer usage, and 39.1% and 47.8%, respectively, labor time. During postharvest, ethylene concentration was unaffected by packaging method. Sleeved plants, regardless of SMC treatment, received lower light intensity in the middle of the plant canopy, causing plants to have lower total leaf number due to abscission and SPAD reading at the end of postproduction. The 40/40 treatment abscised more bracts during five weeks (in 2016) of postproduction and with no sleeve had higher number of bracts with bract edge burn (BEB). In summary, reducing SMC to 20% during TP or RP reduced water usage during production and produced more compact plants with increased postproduction quality.

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Yanjun Guo, Terri Starman, and Charles Hall

This study analyzed the effects of two ranges of drying down of substrate moisture content (SMC) before re-watering on plant growth and development, postproduction quality, and economic value of bedding plants grown in 1.67-L containers during greenhouse production. The two SMC treatments were wide-range (WR) SMC (WR-SMC) for dry-down from container capacity (CC) of 54% SMC dried down to 20% SMC or narrow-range (NR) SMC (NR-SMC) for dry-down from CC of 54% SMC dried down to 40% SMC. Six bedding plant cultivars were used [Solenostemon scutellarioides ‘French Quarter’ (coleus); Petunia ×hybrida ‘Colorworks Pink Radiance’ (petunia); Lantana camara ‘Lucky Flame’ (lantana); Impatiens ×hybrida ‘Sunpatiens Compact Hot Coral’ (SCC); ‘Sunpatiens Spreading Lavender’ (SSL) (impatiens); and Salvia splendens ‘Red Hot Sally II’ (salvia)]. Shoot dry weight was reduced with WR-SMC on petunia, lantana, impatiens SCC, and salvia at the end of production. With WR-SMC, the petunia and impatiens SCC root ball coverage percentages were greater on the bottom of the container, whereas those of impatiens SSL and salvia were reduced. The WR-SMC increased petunia postproduction quality by increasing the flower number. Lantana and impatiens SCC inflorescence/flower and/or bud number were reduced with WR-SMC. The impatiens SSL flower number was unaffected by SMC treatment. Salvia grown with WR-SMC had increased postproduction quality. WR-SMC reduced postproduction water potential in petunia, lantana, and coleus, suggesting that plants with WR-SMC during production were acclimated to reduced irrigation administered during postproduction. WR-SMC saved labor due to less frequent watering and overhead-associated costs due to reduced bench space, with the exception of coleus and impatiens SSL, which used the same bench space as NR-SMC. Considering production and/or postproduction quality, using WR-SMC during greenhouse production is beneficial as an irrigation method for coleus, petunia, impatiens SSL, and salvia, but not for impatiens SCC or lantana grown in 1.67-L containers.