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variability in transplant size and flowering pattern ( Bish et al., 1997 ; Hokanson et al., 2004 ). Strawberry plug transplants (SP) are an alternative to BR. The active root system and water retention capacity of the SP allows them to establish with minimal

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Plugs are rapidly replacing fresh-dug bare-root and cold-stored frigo plants as transplants for strawberry (Fragaria × ananassa) production worldwide. Plugs have many advantages over these other types of propagules. They are grown in controlled environments (greenhouses, tunnels) in less time than field produced bare-root transplants, and are not exposed to soilborne pathogens. Plugs afford greater grower control of transplanting dates, provide mechanical transplanting opportunities and allow improved water management for transplant establishment relative to fresh bare-root plants. New uses for plugs have been identified in recent years; for example, photoperiod and temperature conditioned plugs flower and fruit earlier than traditional transplants and plugs have been used for programmed greenhouse production. Tray plants have superior cold storage characteristics relative to bare-root, waiting-bed transplants. Both fresh and frozen plugs are used in a number of indoor and outdoor growing conditions and cultural systems.

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Seedlings are established in small growing containers to reduce cost of greenhouse space, while improving crop uniformity. These seedlings often are referred to as plugs. Vacuum seeders are used by larger growers to seed many flats per season (Bakos, 1983); however, individual growers, producing plants for their own use, may not be able to justify expensive seeding equipment. Several moderately priced vacuum seeders are available (Bartok, 1988). They consist of a metal tray with small drilled holes to hold the seed in place when a vacuum is applied to the tray from an external source. However, several problems with them exist. Seeds must be free of extraneous materials that might clog the small holes. A slight jarring of the plate, especially when the plate is turned upside down over the seed flat, may cause seeds to dislodge, resulting in unplanted cells in each flat. Also, different sizes of seeds and flats require completely different seeding plates and plate holders. A small grower may choose to seed flats by hand by placing seeds individually in each cell. This is feasible only for large-sized seeds or with pelleted seed. A simple, inexpensive, non-vacuum alternative design is presented and evaluated.

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Many plug seedling growers complain about the inadequacy of substrate testing as a measure of nutritional status because results are too variable. We conducted two experiments to test a model system of sampling substrate at a set time after fertilization. Petunias (Petunia×hybrida Hort. ex Vilm. var. multiflora `Primetime White') were grown in 288-cell plug trays. Six fertilizer regimes were used consisting of a factorial arrangement of three fertilizer cycles (at each, every other, and every third irrigation) and two leaching fractions (0% and 20%). Fertilizer or water was applied at 0900 HR daily, and then 24 hours later in Expt. 1, and 1 hour later in Expt. 2, substrate solutions were sampled and analyzed. Samples taken after waterings were used to assess the dilution and leaching effects of water on substrate nutrient concentrations. In Expt. 2, additional substrate samples were taken at various hours after fertilizing to test the effect of plant depletion of the substrate. Substrate nutrient concentration curves constructed from data drawn at a fixed time after fertilizations, but not after waterings, were logical and could be interpreted. When data from a fixed time after fertilizations and waterings were plotted together, the curves could not be interpreted. Data from samples taken at various hours after fertilization in Expt. 2 revealed large reductions in concentrations, often after only 4 hours. Overall, leaching and dilution effects from watering in combination with the increased time span from fertilizing to sampling resulted in nutrient concentrations that could not be interpreted. Substrate testing can be effective for plug seedling production, but samples need to be taken 1 to 2 hours after fertilizations.

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Plugs of Zinnia elegans Jacq. `California Giant' and Tagetes erecta L. `Golden Climax' and `Grange Lady' were treated with foliar sprays of uniconazole solutions at 0, 5, 25, or 50 mg·liter-1 (spray volume = 120 ml·m-2). Ten days later individual plants were transplanted to OS-liter pots for evaluation of subsequent growth and flowering. All uniconazole treatments reduced height 10 days after application; the extent of reduction depended on uniconazole spray concentration. With zinnia, only the 50-mg·liter-1 foliar spray caused undesirable stunting for at least 1 month after transplanting. None of the uniconazole treatments affected time to anthesis for zinnia. With both marigold cultivars, all uniconazole treatments reduced growth the 2 weeks following transplanting. The highest concentration reduced marigold shoot growth during this period to 25% to 30% of untreated controls. Between 2 and 4 weeks after transplanting growth of all uniconazole-treated marigolds recovered to levels similar to the control. Time to anthesis was increased by the 50 mg·liter-1 treatment for both marigold cultivars. These results suggest that foliar sprays of uniconazole at 5 to 25 mg·liter-1 can control plug height during production without adversely affecting subsequent growth and flowering. with both zinnia and marigold, a single GA3 foliar spray of 100 mg·liter-1 at transplanting partially reversed the adverse post-production effects of the 50 mg·liter-1 uniconazole foliar spray.

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Medium-surface temperature of black, gray, and white plug sheets was measured with thermocouples and an infrared camera. During the night, there were no medium-surface temperature differences between the plug flats; however, medium-surface temperature was 2 to 3 °C below air temperature. Medium-surface temperature increased as solar radiation (280 to 3000 nm) increased. About 80 W of solar radiation/m2 was incident on the plug-flat surface before medium-surface temperature equaled air temperature. Medium-surface temperature in the black, gray, and white flats was 6.3, 6.1, and 5.3 °C above air temperature, respectively, when 300 W of solar radiation/m2 (30% of the maximum solar radiation during the summer) was incident on the medium surface. Thus, incident solar radiation has a greater effect on medium surface temperature than plug-flat color.

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Pre- and posttransplant growth of plug seedlings is affected by the nutrition of the plants. The effects of weekly applications of nutrient solution with different N (8-32 mm) or P and K (0.25-1.0 mm) levels on the growth and nutrient composition of impatiens (Impatiens wallerana Hook. f.) and petunia (Petunia ×hybrida hort. Vilm.-Andr.) plug seedlings were quantified. Impatiens and petunia pretransplant seedling growth was most rapid with a \batchmode \documentclass[fleqn,10pt,legalpaper]{article} \usepackage{amssymb} \usepackage{amsfonts} \usepackage{amsmath} \pagestyle{empty} \begin{document} \(\mathrm{NO}_{3}^{1}\) \end{document} concentration of 24 or 32 mm (N at 336 and 448 mg·L-1), while P and K had little effect. Increasing the N concentration in the fertilizer also increased shoot tissue N levels of both impatiens and petunia and decreased shoot P level of impatiens and K level of petunia. Posttransplant growth was most rapid in plants that received N at 16 to 32 mm. Decreasing P and K from 1 to 0.25 mm in the pretransplant fertilizer reduced posttransplant growth. Shoot P level of impatiens 15 d after transplanting decreased from 6.9 to 4.8 mg·g-1 as the pretransplant fertilizer N concentration increased from 8 to 32 mm, while N level increased from 18 to 28 mg·g-1 as P and K fertilizer concentrations increased from 0.25 to 1 mm. Using posttransplant growth as a quantitative norm for plug quality, the sufficiency ranges for tissue N level are 28 to 40 mg·g-1 for impatiens and 30 to 43 mg·g-1 for petunia plugs. These results indicate that fertilization programs for high-quality plug production should focus on N nutrition, and that plugs can be grown with greatly reduced levels of P and K.

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A greenhouse hydroponic system, which uses suspended plastic troughs, was found to be an efficient system for the production of high quality strawberry (Fragaria ×ananassa) plantlets. In this system micropropagated mother plants of `Oso Grande' and `Sweet Charlie' produced an average of 84 and 80 daughters per mother plant, respectively, in 1996, at a plant density of 3 mother plants/ft2 (32 mother plants/m2). Nearly 100% of the plantlets harvested from the system were successfully rooted in plug trays, and showed no symptoms of leaf or crown diseases.

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Various growth stimulators have been reported to improve plant growth. Some of these are formulated to improve root growth, which would be particularly beneficial for reestablishing transplants. Three commercially available plant growth stimulators—PGR IV (MicroFlo, Lakeland, Fla.), Roots2 (Lisa Products Corp., Independence, Mo.), and Up-Start (The Solaris Group, San Ramon, Calif.)—were tested to quantify their effect on post-transplant growth of petunia (Petunia × hybrida Hort. Vilm.-Andr.) and impatiens (Impatiens wallerana Hook.f.) seedlings and to assess their value for the greenhouse industry. Seedlings were transplanted from plug flats into larger 5.6-fl oz (166-cm3) containers and treated with 1.1 fl oz (31 mL) of growth stimulator per plant (22 fl oz/ft2). Applications were made immediately after transplant. None of the treatments affected root mass at any time. Up-Start (2 fl oz/gal) increased final shoot dry mass by ≈20% compared to the control plants. The increase in shoot growth by Up-Start most likely is caused by the fertilizer it contains. Up-Start also increased flowering of petunia from 34 to 40 days after transplant. PGR IV (0.5 fl oz/gal) and Roots2 (1.28 fl oz/gal) did not affect dry mass of the plants. PGR IV increased the number of flowers of petunia and impatiens, but this effect occurred well after the plants were marketable. Roots2 caused a small delay in early flowering and an increase in late flowering of petunia but had no effect on flowering of impatiens. Since the effects of the growth stimulators was either due their fertilizer content (Up-Start) or occurred after the plants would have been sold (PGR IV, Roots2), none of the growth stimulators appears to be beneficial for bedding plant producers.

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Binomial probability distributions were used to determine the effects of percent seed germination and number of seeds sown per cell on expected numbers of seedlings in plug trays. Expected numbers of empty cells in five types of plug trays (128, 273, 338, 406, and 512 cells/tray) were calculated for cases where one to seven seeds were sown per cell and seed germination ranged from 50% to 95%. Generally, one additional seed was required per plug cell for each 10% decrease in the germination percentage in order to attain the same number of filled cells per plug tray. Expected frequencies were calculated for the number of seedlings in plug trays when one to five seeds were sown per cell and seed germination ranged from 50% to 95%. When the number of seeds sown per cell remained constant, uniformity in seedling number per cell increased as the germination percentage increased. When percent seed germination remained constant and the number of seeds sown per cell was increased, the percentage of cells with at least one seedling increased, whereas the uniformity in seedling number per cell decreased. Additional examples are presented in the article on the utility of binomial distributions in determining expected number of seedlings.

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