Two- to three-week-old `Sweet Charlie' strawberry (Fragaria ×ananassa Duch.) plug plants were conditioned [seven 9-hour short days without chilling (21 °C day/21 °C night) followed by seven 9-hour short days with chilling during the nyctoperiod (21 °C/12 °C night)] in September, then planted in a vertical hydroponic system for winter greenhouse production. Conditioned plugs produced significantly more fruit than did nonconditioned control plugs in January and February, but the difference was nonsignificant in March and April. Fruit yield increased linearly with height in the column (≈40 g/plant for every 30-cm increase in column height), probably because of increasing light level. When productivity is considered on an area basis (kg·m–2) and the column height effect on yield is accounted for, productivity over a 4.5-month period was 4.8 kg·m–2 for controls and 7.8 kg·m–2 for conditioned plugs. Conditioned plug plants offer the potential for increasing strawberry productivity and therefore the profitability of a winter greenhouse production system.
Greenhouse experiments were conducted in 2005 and 2006 near Live Oak, FL, to develop fertilization programs for fresh-cut ‘Nufar’ basil (Ocimum basilicum) and spearmint (Mentha spicata) in troughs with soilless media using inputs compliant with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Organic Program (NOP). Four NOP-compliant fertilizer treatments were evaluated in comparison with a conventional control. Treatments and their analyses in nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) contents are as follows: conventional hydroponic nutrient solution [HNS (150 ppm N, 50 ppm P, and 200 ppm K)], granular poultry (GP) litter (4N–0.9P–2.5K), granular composite [GC (4N–0.9P–3.3K)], granular meal [GM (8N–2.2P–4.1K)], and GM plus a sidedress application of 5N–0.9P–1.7K fish emulsion (GM + FE). Electrical conductivity (EC) of the media, fresh petiole sap nitrate (NO3-N) and K concentrations, dried whole leaf NO3-N, P, and K concentrations, and yield and postharvest quality of harvested herbs were evaluated in response to the treatments. Basil yield was similar with HNS (340 g/plant) and GP (325 g/plant) in 2005 and greatest with HNS (417 g/plant) in 2006. Spearmint yield was similar with all treatments in 2005. In 2006, spearmint yields were similar with the HNS and GP yields (172 and 189 g/plant, respectively) and greater than the yields with the remaining treatments. In both years and crops, media EC values were generally greater with the GC than with the GP, GM, and GM + FE treatments but not in all cases and ranged from 1.77 to 0.55 dS·m−1 during the experiments. Furthermore, HNS media EC values were consistently equal to or lower than the GP media EC values except with EC measurements on 106 days after transplanting in both crops in 2005. Petiole NO3-N and K results were variable among crops and years, but provided valuable insight into the EC and yield data. We expected EC, petiole NO3-N, and petiole K to be consistently higher with HNS than with organic treatments, but they were not, indicating a reasonable synchrony of nutrient availability and crop demand among the organic treatments. The postharvest quality of both basil and spearmint was excellent with all treatments with few exceptions.
Rockwool is an excellent growing medium for the hydroponic production of tomato; however, the standard size rockwool blocks [4 × 4 × 2.5 inches (10 × 10 × 6.3 cm) or 3 × 3 × 2.5 inches (7.5 × 7.5 × 6.3 cm)] are expensive. The following experiments were conducted with less expensive minirock wool blocks (MRBs), on rayon polyester material (RPM) as a bench top liner, to reduce the production cost of tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum) grown in a limited-cluster, ebb and flood hydroponic cultivation system. Fruit yield for single-cluster plants growing in MRBs [2 × 2 × 1.6 inches (5 × 5 × 4 cm) and 1.6 × 1.6 × 1.6 inches (4 × 4 × 4 cm)] was not significantly different from plants grown in larger sized blocks (3 × 3 × 2.5 inches). When the bench top was lined with RPM, roots penetrated the RPM, and an extensive root mat developed between the RPM and the bench top. The fruit yield from plants on RPM was significantly increased compared to plants without RPM due to increases in fruit size and fruit number. RPM also significantly reduced the incidence of blossom-end rot. In a second experiment, single- and double-cluster plants were grown on RPM. Fruit yield for double-cluster plants was 40% greater than for single-cluster plants due to an increase in fruit number, although the fruit were smaller in size. As in the first experiment, fruit yield for all plants grown in MRBs was not significantly different from plants grown in the larger sized blocks. MRBs and a RPM bench liner are an effective combination in the production of limited-cluster hydroponic tomatoes.
Bahiagrass (Paspalum notatum) is widely used for slope protection and water and soil conservation in southern China. The plants develop an extensive root system that plays a crucial role in the protection of both soil and water. However, little is currently known about the factors that influence early root growth in bahiagrass. Here, the effects of boron (B), calcium (Ca), iron (Fe), lanthanum (La), cerium (Ce), salicylic acid (SA), and melatonin (MLT) on root growth characteristics were examined. Bahiagrass seedlings were grown in 1/25 strength modified Hoagland nutrient solution supplemented with boric acid, calcium chloride, ferric ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (Fe-EDTA), lanthanum chloride, cerium chloride, SA, or MLT. Root lengths, root surface areas, and the number of root tips were analyzed using a root scanning system after 2, 4, and 6 days of treatment. We found significant effects on root growth after some treatments. Thus, 0.270 or 0.360 mm B for 2 days enhanced root tip number, whereas 0.15 mm Fe for 6 days increased root surface area. Although 3 or 5 mm Ca caused an increase in root tip numbers, the root length was reduced. The addition of La to the nutrient solution significantly increased root length and surface area, and addition of Ce increased root surface area and root tip numbers. Root growth characteristics were optimal after 0.3 μm La for 6 days or 1.0 μm La for 4 days. For Ce treatment, optimal root characteristics were observed at 0.5 μm Ce for 6 days. Root tip numbers increased after 0.1 or 1.0 μm MLT for 6 days, whereas SA treatment reduced the root length, surface area, and root tip numbers. Overall, the analyses indicate that treatment with B, Fe, La, Ce, and MLT benefited root growth in bahiagrass seedlings.
Four experiments were conducted from 1992 to 1994 to determine the concentrations of N and P required to maximize yields of rockwool-grown cucumbers (Cucumis sativus `Vetomil') trained with a double-stem method. Concentrations of N and P in rockwool slabs were monitored throughout growth of greenhouse-grown cucumbers. The onset and duration of nutrient depletion in the slabs were related to cucumber yield. In Expt. 1, treatment-1 plants received a two-step solution containing N at 90 and 175 mg·L−1 during successive growth phases, while treatment-2 and -3 plants were grown with N at a constant 175 or 225 mg·L−1. Phosphorus was provided at 50 mg·L−1 in all treatments. Treatment 1 was excluded from Expt. 2. In Expts. 3 and 4, plants were grown with N at 225 or 275 mg·L−1 and P at 75 mg·L−1. Onset of N and P depletion (to <10 mg·L−1) in the growing slabs occurred during the early fruiting stage of cucumber, 1 to 8 days before first harvest. The duration of N and P depletion decreased, and cucumber yields increased with increasing N and P concentrations. When plants were grown with N and P at 275 and 75 mg·L1, respectively, N was depleted in the growing slabs during only one experiment and then for only 4 days, and slab P concentration remained >10 mg·L1. Therefore, under Florida conditions, when growing cucumbers in rockwool using a double-stem training technique, N and P should be provided at 275 and 75 mg·L−1, respectively, to minimize depletion of these nutrients from the growing medium.
Cucumbers (Cucumis sativus L. `Vetomil') were grown in rockwool or perlite to evaluate these media for efficient hydroponic cucumber production under Florida greenhouse conditions. Plants were grown using a double-stem training method, and the frequency of irrigations was controlled by a weighing lysimeter for each treatment. In Expt. 1, plants were grown in rockwool with 29% or 17% leaching fraction (LF) and in perlite with a 17% LF. Nitrogen, P, and K concentrations in the complete nutrient solution were 175, 50, and 180 mg·L−1, respectively. In Expt. 2, N, P, and K concentrations were increased to 225, 60, and 225 mg·L−1, respectively. Other nutrient concentrations and LFs remained as in Expt. 1. In Expt. 1, yields (fruit count and total fruit mass) were higher from plants grown in rockwool at 29% LF than from plants grown in rockwool or perlite at 17% LF. However, in Expt. 2, when nutrient concentrations were higher, total fruit mass was greater from plants grown at the lower LF, although there was no difference in fruit number. In both experiments, cucumber yield did not differ when grown at the same LF in either rockwool or perlite. Electrical conductivity (EC) and pH of the nutrient solution from the growing bags were not affected when LFs were decreased. In Expt. 1, the pH and EC ranged from 6.1 to 7.0 and from 0.9 to 1.6 mS·cm−1, respectively, across all treatments. In Expt. 2, pH and EC ranged from 5.3 to 6.9 and from 0.6 to 2.5 mS·cm−1, respectively, across all treatments.
Greenhouse tomato (Lycopersicum esculentum Mill.) producers are urged to reduce their environmental footprint. Here, the suitability of biochar produced from tomato crop green waste as a substrate for soilless, hydroponic tomato production was evaluated. Substrates containing different combinations of biochar (BC) and pine (Pinus radiata D. Don) sawdust (SD) were produced (BC0-SD100, BC25-SD75, BC50-SD50, BC75-SD25, and BC100-SD0) and characterized. The effect of these substrates on tomato growth, yield, and fruit quality was studied. Most of the measured properties of substrates containing biochar were suited to use as a soilless substrate. The electrical conductivity (EC) of substrates containing biochar was initially high (>4.6 mS·cm−1), but was easily reduced to <0.5 mS·cm−1 by rinsing with water before use. The pH of substrates containing biochar was higher than is considered acceptable for tomato production (7.5–9.3) but did not significantly (P < 0.05) affect any plant growth, yield, and fruit quality indicators measured compared with those of plants grown in pine sawdust. The results support the concept of creating a closed loop system whereby biochar produced from tomato crop green waste is used as a substrate for soilless, hydroponic tomato production, providing a sustainable means to support the growth of high-value food crops.
Growth chamber experiments were conducted to study the physiological and growth response of peanut (Arachis hypogaea L.) to 50% and 85% relative humidity (RH). The objective was to determine the effects of RH on pod and seed yield, harvest index, and flowering of peanut grown by the nutrient film technique (NFT). `Georgia Red' peanut plants (14 days old) were planted into growth channels (0.15 × 0.15 × 1.2 m). Plants were spaced 25 cm apart with 15 cm between channels. A modified half-Hoagland solution with an additional 2 mm Ca was used. Solution pH was maintained between 6.4 and 6.7, and electrical conductivity (EC) ranged between 1100 and 1200 μS·cm–1. Temperature regimes of 28/22 °C were maintained during the light/dark periods (12 hours each) with photosynthetic photon flux (PPF) at canopy level of 500 μmol·m–2·s–1. Foliage and pod fresh and dry weights, total seed yield, harvest index (HI), and seed maturity were greater at high than at low RH. Plants grown at 85% RH had greater total and individual leaflet area and stomatal conductance, flowered 3 days earlier and had a greater number of flowers reaching anthesis. Gynophores grew more rapidly at 85% than at 50% RH.
The effects of elevated CO2 on growth, pod, and seed yield, and gas exchange of `Georgia Red' peanut (Arachis hypogaea L.) were evaluated under controlled environmental conditions. Plants were exposed to concentrations of 400 (ambient), 800, and 1200 μmol·mol–1 CO2 in reach-in growth chambers. Foliage fresh and dry weights increased with increased CO2 up to 800 μmol·mol–1, but declined at 1200 μmol·mol–1. The number and the fresh and dry weights of pods also increased with increasing CO2 concentration. However, the yield of immature pods was not significantly influenced by increased CO2. Total seed yield increased 33% from ambient to 800 μmol·mol–1 CO2, and 4% from 800 to 1200 μmol·mol–1 CO2. Harvest index increased with increasing CO2. Branch length increased while specific leaf area decreased linearly as CO2 increased from ambient to 1200 μmol·mol–1. Net photosynthetic rate was highest among plants grown at 800 μmol·mol–1. Stomatal conductance decreased with increased CO2. Carboxylation efficiency was similar among plants grown at 400 and 800 μmol·mol–1 and decreased at 1200 μmol·mol–1CO2. These results suggest that CO2 enrichment from 400 to 800 μmol·mol–1 had positive effects on peanut growth and yield, but above 800 μmol·mol–1 enrichment seed yield increased only marginally.
Spinach (Spinacia oleracea L.) was chosen to demonstrate that the respective vegetative or reproductive conditions of transplants can be controlled in their early stages of development under artificial light in a closed system. Transplant production under artificial light was divided into three growth phases and the photoperiod during each of these phases was varied. The rate of floral development was controlled by photoperiod, but floral initiation itself was not affected. Short photoperiod treatments (8 or 12 hours/day) retarded floral development and stem elongation (bolting). This delay continued even after the transplants were transferred to natural long-day (15.5 hours/day on average) conditions with high temperatures (17 and 37 °C minimum and maximum). We concluded that by using short photoperiods during transplant production, marketable plants with reduced bolting could be produced under natural long-day conditions. In Japan, spinach with this rosetting capacity would be of greater value. Further, this concept opens the possibility of producing better quality transplants of several species under artificial lighting conditions of appropriate length, and thereby controlling their floral development and/or bolting.