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Ed Bloodnick

In undisturbed soil environments, certain bacteria and fungi help plants by transforming organic compounds, surpressing diseases, and acquiring nutrients. A strong interest has developed in the identification and culture of beneficial soil microorganisms. Complex groups of fungi, called mycorrhizae, grow in association with roots of many plant species. These fungi show promise as growth and quality enhancers for agriculture crops. However, farmlands that are subjected to excessive chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and soil fumigants contain low levels of indigenous mycorrhizae and other beneficial microorganisms. The re-introduction of endo-mycorrhizae populations has proven to be valuable for improvement of soils and vegetable crop culture. Peat-based substrates are generally used for germination and production of vegetable transplants. In this case, endo-mycorrhizae species (Glomus intraradices) was incorporated into a peat-based growing medium as a means of introducing inoculum to vegetable transplants. Bell pepper (Capsicum annuum) seeds were germinated and grown-on inoculated and non-inoculated growing medium inside of a polyhouse for a period of 8 weeks. Fertilizer applications of 50 ppm of N were given weekly. Seedlings were subsequently outplanted into field soil where incidence of root disease, fertilizer requirements, and pesticide applications were recorded. At fruit maturity, each harvest was evaluated for fruit quality and yield. At the end of the growing season, results indicated an improvement of fruit quality and a yield increase of >16%.

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Robert Berghage

Temperature management has emerged as an important tool for plant height control in greenhouse production systems. This is particularly important in vegetable transplant production where chemical controls for plant height are limited or not legal. Plant height is a function of the number of nodes and the length of each internode, and both are strongly influenced by greenhouse temperatures. Node number, or formation rate, is primarily a function of the average greenhouse temperature, increasing as the average temperature increases. Internode length is strongly influenced by the relationship between the day and night temperature, commonly referred to as DIF (day temperature - night temperature). As DIF increases, so does internode length in most plant species studied. Although the nature and magnitude of temperature effects vary with species, cultivar, and environmental conditions, these two basic responses can be used to modify transplant growth. Although data are limited, controlling transplant height with temperature does not appear to adversely influence plant establishment or subsequent yield.

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E.A. Guertal, B.K. Behe and J.M. Kemble

The use of composted waste materials as an alternative source of potting media has received much interest in recent years. Our objective was to incorporate composted, ground poultry litter into a standard greenhouse potting mix, and evaluate the effect of the poultry litter on vegetable transplants grown in the greenhouse and transplanted to the field. Treatments consisted of potting mixes of 100% potting media or 50/50 media/poultry litter. Collards (Brassica oleracea L. var. acephala DC.), broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. italica Plenck.), cabbage (Brassica oleracea L. var. capitata L.) and three tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) cultivars were utilized as test crops. A nutrient solution treatment of 8 oz of 8N-11P-7K fertilizer or 8 oz of water was added when transplants were set in the field. Plant weight and nitrogen content were measured weekly during the greenhouse production stage, and final crop yield was recorded at harvest. Any effect from the inclusion of poultry litter in the potting media on cole crop (collards, broccoli, cabbage) transplant dry weight had disappeared by the fourth week of sampling in the greenhouse, and final yield of cole crops was unaffected by either type of potting mix or presence or absence of starter nutrient solution. Dry weight of tomato transplants was not affected by type of potting media. Differences in tomato yield due to type of potting mix were observed, as plots with transplants grown in the 50/50 mix had greater nonmarketable yields (`Bonnie' and `Big Boy'). Yield of `Big Boy' tomato was increased by the addition of starter nutrient solution. It appears that composted, uniformly prepared waste materials are suitable for production of vegetable transplants.

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Christopher J. Biai, José G. Garzon, Jason A. Osborne, Jonathan R. Schultheis, Ronald J. Gehl and Christopher C. Gunter

Vegetable transplants can have excessive internode elongation before field establishment, producing challenges for the growers using mechanical transplanters to establish their crops. Thus, controlling the height of vegetable transplants before planting could be an advantage for commercial vegetable growers. A greenhouse experiment was conducted in 2008 (Year 1–2008) and 2009 (Year 2–2009) to determine the efficacy of exogenous drench-applied abscisic acid (ABA) applications for height control of transplanted pepper. Three types of pepper (Capsicum annuum L.) were investigated: bell pepper ‘Aristotle’, Jalapeño ‘Grande’, and banana pepper ‘Pageant’. In this greenhouse study, 10 ABA treatments, based on application frequency and timing, and an untreated control were arranged in a randomized complete block design with six (Year 1–2008) or five (Year 2–2009) replications and were evaluated over an 8-week period each year. Treatments included: single application at Week 1 (cotyledon stage), Week 2, Week 3, and Week 4; double applications were made at Weeks 1 + 2, Weeks 2 + 3, and Weeks 3 + 4; and multiple applications of ABA at Weeks 1 + 2 + 3, Weeks 2 + 3 + 4, and Weeks 1 + 2 + 3 + 4. All ABA applications were delivered as a drench applied directly to the planting container at a rate of 250 mg·L−1 ABA. Early, single-dose applications (Week 1) were more effective at controlling height than a single dose applied later; a Week 1 application measured during week 5 was 4.1 cm versus a Week 4 application measured at Week 5, which was 5.7 cm. Multiple ABA applications initiated early (at the cotyledon stage) of ‘Aristotle’ bell peppers were effective in controlling transplant height compared with any single ABA application; measured at Week 5, an application at Week 1 + 2 was 3.1 cm compared with the single application treatments from that same measurement date, which ranged from 4.1 to 5.7 cm. Differences among the response of pepper types to ABA application were observed. ‘Aristotle’ had significant treatment effects even 6 weeks after treatment. ‘Pageant’ (banana pepper) exhibited an intermediate response with effects lasting only 2 weeks. No significant height reductions resulting from ABA treatment were observed for ‘Grande’ (Jalapeño pepper). Multiple ABA dose applications initiated at the cotyledon plant growth stage can be used to effectively control transplant height of ‘Aristotle’ bell pepper seedlings.

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Joyce G. Latimer

Since chemical growth retardants are no longer labelled for use on vegetable transplants, mechanical conditioning provides an alternative method of controlling excessive stem elongation under greenhouse conditions. Mechanical conditioning includes brushing or shaking treatments that physically impact or displace the plant and generally reduce plant growth, increase stem and petiole strength, and improve overall plant quality. The resulting transplants have less breakage during postharvest handling, may be more stress tolerant, and are faster to establish in the field. However, only minor effects on crop yield have been identified. Brushing reduced broccoli transplant size, but improved shoot dry weight gain during field establishment but had no effect on head yield. Brushing is a labor intensive practice for large-scale operations. Current attempts to mechanize brushing require that the plants are uniform in height and treatment tolerant. Additional research in non-contact treatments like shaking or vibration of benches is necessary. The effects of the treatments on stress tolerance and predisposition to disease need to be clarified.

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Jeffrey Adelberg, Kazuhiro Fujiwara, Chalermpol Kirdmanee and Toyoki Kozai

Two triploid clones of melon from the same tetraploid parent were grown in vitro with and without sugar, rooted without sugar in media both in a laboratory controlled environment chamber (in vitro) and a greenhouse acclimatization unit (ex vitro), and compared for subsequent nursery growth in the greenhouse unit. The clone `(L-14 c B) × L-14' produced more shoots in both photomixotrophic (with sucrose) or photoautotrophic (sugar-free) conditions. Both genotypes were equally likely to root in sugar-free media, and `(L-14 × B) × L-14' rooted as well from either photoautotrophic and photomixotrophic shoots but `(L-14 × B) × Mainstream' rooted less frequently from photoautotrophic shoots. Seventy-six percent (76%) of the shoots were able to root photoautotrophically in vitro, whereas 47% of the ex vitro shoots were rooted. About 85% of plantlets from all treatments survived after transfer to the nursery. After growth in the greenhouse nursery, the sizes of plants (fresh and dry weight, leaf area) were the same for either clone, from either photoautotrophic or photomixotrophic shoots. Also, after growth in the nursery, plantlets that had been rooted in vitro were larger than those rooted ex vitro. Photoautotrophic rooting demonstrates a concept for integrating micropropagation and plug-type vegetable transplant production.

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Michael A. Arnold

Interest in chemical modification of root systems of container-grown trees has increased in recent years with more widespread recognition of implications of root system architecture of container-grown trees on subsequent landscape performance. Initial research on Cu-based latex materials for application to interior container surfaces to avoid circled, matted, and kinked roots at container wall: media interfaces began with small forest tree liners in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Transfer of this technology to horticultural crops followed from the mid-1980s to the present. Testing has spread to a wide range of temperate and tropical landscape trees, shrubs, herbaceous annuals and perennials, interior foliage plants, and vegetable transplants. Inhibition of root elongation after contact with treated container surfaces is via a mild Cu toxicity, frequently resulting in a stimulation of lateral root proliferation proximal to the inhibited root tip, but responses vary with species, cultivar, media composition and pH, and Cu concentration and formulation. Early reports on root architecture effects were predominantly qualitative in nature. Quantitative studies on root architecture within treated containers have been less consistent in responses among species. Improvements in root regeneration, shoot growth, and water relations during post-transplant field establishment of trees grown in Cu-treated vs. non-treated containers have been documented for several species. Ecological (Cu leaching potential), technological (new applications), and economic (profitability) questions have arisen with increased use and availability of Cu-based container treatments and will be discussed.

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Puffy Soundy, Daniel J. Cantliffe, George J. Hochmuth and Peter J. Stoffella

Although floatation irrigation has numerous advantages for vegetable transplant production, including improved seedling health, lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.) transplants grown with floatation (ebb and flow) irrigation can have poor root systems. Floatation fertigation of `South Bay' transplants with K at 15, 30, 45, or 60 mg·L-1 K applied every 2 to 4 days, increased fresh and dry root weight at 28 days. Higher K (24 mg·kg-1) in the medium did not affect root weight. Fresh and dry shoot weight, leaf area, relative shoot ratio (RSR), relative growth rate (RGR), leaf weight ratio (LMR), and root weight ratio (RMR) were unaffected by applied K, regardless of the initial K concentration in the medium. Available K in a vermiculite-containing medium may have supplied all the K required. When 60 was compared with 100 mg·L-1 N at various levels of K, the applied K again did not influence dry root weight; however, at 100 mg·L-1 N, root weight was reduced as compared with 60 mg·L-1 N, regardless of the level of applied K. In a field experiment, pretransplant K had no effect on growth. Transplants grown with no added K in a peat + vermiculite mix with at least 24 mg·L-1 water-extractable K produced yields equivalent to transplants supplied with 15, 30, 45, or 60 mg·L-1 K via floatation irrigation.

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Vincent M. Russo

Use of biological amendments in vegetable transplant production may affect plant development. Rhizosphere bacteria can alter conditions in the root zone and affect plant growth even if root tissue is not colonized. Arbuscular mycorrhizae (AM) affect plant development through symbiotic relations. Abiotic factors may mediate effects of biotic amendments. Organically certified potting medium was inoculated with a mix of Sinorhizobium sp. bacteria or a mix of AM fungi. Controls consisted of no amendment. Bell pepper, Capsicum annuum L., cv. Jupiter, seed were sown in the medium and irrigated either twice a day for 3 minutes per application or three times a day for 2 minutes per application. Seedlings were treated with 8, 16, 24, or 32 mL·L–1 of an organically certified liquid fertilizer beginning 3 weeks after sowing. Use of bacteria improved plant height and dry weight. Interactions of bacteria and fertilizer rate or irrigation regime affected plant height or dry weight. When irrigated twice a day, plants were tallest when provided 16 mL·L–1 fertilizer, and heaviest when provided 24 mL·L–1 fertilizer. When irrigated three times a day, plants were taller at the lower rates of fertilizer and heaviest at the highest rate of fertilizer. Use of AM had little effect on plant height and dry weight. Most of the responses when AM was the amendment were the result of fertilizer rate and irrigation regime. When irrigated twice a day, AM-treated plants were tallest and heaviest when provided at least 24 mL·L–1 fertilizer. Regardless of biological amendment, plant heights were correlated with plant dry weights over fertilizer rates and irrigation regime. Use of Sinorhizobium sp. appeared to provide a benefit to the development of bell pepper transplants.

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Shumin Li, Nihal C. Rajapakse and Ryu Oi

The far-red light intercepting photoselective plastic greenhouse covers have been shown to be effective in producing compact vegetable transplants. However, photoselective films reduce the photosynthetic photon flux (PPF) transmission compared to conventional plastic films because of the dye contained in the film. The low PPF in greenhouses covered with photoselective films may result in decreased plant dry matter production and could especially be a problem in the season with low light level and in northern latitudes. Therefore, this study was conducted to determine if covering at the end of the day (EOD) with photoselective films was effective in controlling height of vegetable seedlings. This will allow growers to maintain a high light level during daytime for optimum growth of plants. Cucumber seedlings were exposed to light transmitted through a photoselective film and a clear control film. Three exposure durations: continuous, exposure to filtered light from 3:00 pm to 9:00 am, and from 5:00 pm - 9:00 am, were evaluated. Results show that, after 15 days of treatment, about 25% of height reduction could be achieved by exposing the plants at the EOD from 3:00 pm to 9:00 am or from 5:00 pm to 9:00 am. Plants grown continuously under filtered light were the shortest. Compared to plants grown in photoselective chamber continuously, EOD exposed plants had greater leaf, stem and shoot dry weights, greater leaf area and thicker stem. Specific leaf and stem dry weights were also greater in EOD exposed plants. Number of leaves was not significantly affected by any exposure periods tested. The results suggested that the EOD use of photoselective film is effective in reducing height of cucumber seedlings. The responses of other crops need to be evaluated to test the feasibility of using photoselective film as a EOD cover on wide range of crops.