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Nicholas J. Flax, Christopher J. Currey, James A. Schrader, David Grewell and William R. Graves

We quantified the growth and quality of ‘Arizona Sun’ blanket flower (Gaillardia ×grandiflora) grown in different bioplastic containers and characterized the interest of commercial perennial producers in using bioplastic-based biocontainers in their herbaceous perennial production schemes. Plants were grown in three types of #1 trade gallon (0.75 gal) containers at five commercial perennial producers in the upper-midwestern United States. Containers included one made of polylactic acid (PLA) and a proprietary bio-based filler derived from a coproduct of corn ethanol production, a commercially available recycled paper fiber container twice dip-coated with castor oil–based biopolyurethane and a petroleum-based plastic (control) container. Plant growth data were collected when most plants had open flowers, and plant shoots, roots, and containers were rated by commercial grower participants. Questionnaires were administered at the beginning and at the end of the experiment to characterize the perceptions and interest of growers in using these containers, their interest in different bioplastic-based container attributes, and their satisfaction from using the containers. Container type and grower interacted to affect growth index (GI), shoot dry weight (SDW), and container rating. Root rating was affected by container type or grower and shoot rating was unaffected by either. Our results indicate that commercial producers can adapt these bioplastic-based biocontainers to blanket flower production with few or no changes to their crop cultural practices.

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Nicholas J. Flax, Christopher J. Currey, James A. Schrader, David Grewell and William R. Graves

manufactured with different proportions (by weight) of polylactic acid [PLA (a widely available commercial bioplastic)], polyhydroxyalkanoates [PHA (a less-common commercial bioplastic)], soy polymer with adipic anhydride [SP.A (a soy protein–based bioplastic

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Heidi A. Kratsch, James A. Schrader, Kenneth G. McCabe, Gowrishankar Srinivasan, David Grewell and William R. Graves

diameters of 4.5 inches (11.43 cm) and volumes of 680 cm 3 . The petroleum control had a top diameter of 4.5 inches and a volume of 655 cm 3 . The top row shows prototype containers made of polylactic acid (PLA)-based blends and composites, which are from

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Jeremy S. Cowan, Debra A. Inglis and Carol A. Miles

Lamont, W.J. 2005 Plastics: Modifying the microclimate for the production of vegetable crops HortTechnology 15 477 481 Lunt, J. 2000 Polylactic acid polymers for fibers and nonwovens Intl. Fiber J. 15 48 52 Martín-Closas, L. Bach, M.A. Pelacho, A.M. 2008

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Nicholas J. Flax, Christopher J. Currey, James A. Schrader, David Grewell and William R. Graves

-plant species may be beneficial. Fig. 1. ‘Serena White’ angelonia grown in seven types of biocontainers 4.5-inch (11.43 cm) top-diameter novel biopolymer containers made from (by weight) 90% polylactic acid [PLA (a commercial biopolymer)] and 10% lignin powder

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Nicholas J. Flax, Christopher J. Currey, Alexander G. Litvin, James A. Schrader, David Grewell and William R. Graves

× hortorum L.H. Bailey ‘Pinto Premium Deep Red’) in a soil moisture sensor–controlled irrigation system were polylactic acid (PLA; commercial bioplastic), lignin powder, soy polymer with adipic anhydride (SP.A), BioRes (BR; a refined coproduct of corn

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Kenneth G. McCabe, James A. Schrader, Samy Madbouly, David Grewell and William R. Graves

’ salvia (PA = polyamide, PLA = polylactic acid, PU = polyurethane, TO = tung oil). Water-use efficiency is grams of plant dry weight divided by the liters of water required to produce the plant during 8 weeks of production under standard greenhouse

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Shuresh Ghimire, Edward Scheenstra and Carol A. Miles

contaminated with soil and debris, only about 10% is recycled ( Kasirajan and Ngouajio, 2012 ). Soil-biodegradable mulches (BDMs) are made from biodegradable polymers such as poly(butylene adipate- co -terephthalate), polylactic acid, polyhydroxyalkanoate, and

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James A. Schrader, Gowrishankar Srinivasan, David Grewell, Kenneth G. McCabe and William R. Graves

As part of a project to develop and assess bio-based, biodegradable plastics for their potential to replace petroleum-based plastics in specialty-crop containers, we evaluated prototype containers made of protein-based polymers from soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.] for their effectiveness during production of plants in greenhouses and subsequent establishment of those plants outdoors. Our objective was to assess the function and biodegradation of soy-based plastic containers with special attention to whether a fertilizer effect results from degrading containers before and after plants are moved outdoors. In our first experiment, plants of tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) and pepper (Capsicum annuum L.) were grown in soy-plastic containers and control containers of petroleum-based (polypropylene) plastic under greenhouse conditions for 4 weeks. Each plant then was transplanted and grown in an outdoor garden plot for 5 weeks with the container removed, broken into pieces less than 4 cm in diameter, and installed beneath the roots of the transplant. Three additional experiments were performed: a greenhouse trial to quantify the relative concentration and form of plant-available nitrogen (N) released from soy-plastic containers of three types [soy plastic, soy plastic coated with polylactic acid (PLA), and soy–PLA polymer blended 50:50 by weight] during production; a greenhouse trial to evaluate the same three container types under production conditions with five container-crop species; and a field trial to assess the effects of the 50:50 soy–PLA container on transplant establishment. Plant-available N was released from soy-based plastic containers during greenhouse production, and transplant establishment was enhanced when the soy-based container was removed, crushed, and installed in the soil near plant roots. During greenhouse production, containers of high-percentage soy plastic released N at an excessive rate (623 mg·L−1 in leachate) and predominantly in the form of NH4 + (99.4% at 3 weeks of culture). Containers made by blending soy plastic with PLA released N at a favorable rate during production. In both field trials, growth and health of plants cultured in soy containers were better than those of controls. Although the design and material formulation of soy-plastic containers need to be improved to optimize container integrity and plant health during production, our results illustrate the potential to use soy-based plastics in biodegradable containers that release N at rates that promote growth and health of plants during greenhouse production and establishment of transplants outdoors.

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Shuresh Ghimire, Annette L. Wszelaki, Jenny C. Moore, Debra Ann Inglis and Carol Miles

The use of plastic biodegradable mulch (BDM) in many vegetable crops such as tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.), broccoli (Brassica oleracea L. var. italica), and pepper (Capsicum annuum L.) has been proven to be of equal benefit as polyethylene (PE) mulch. However, there are limited research findings on the performance of BDM with a large fruited crop such as pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo L.) where the fruit can rest directly on the mulch for an extended period. To investigate whether heavy fruit might cause the mulch to degrade more quickly than expected, thereby, influencing weed control, fruit yield, and fruit quality including mulch adhesion on fruit, we carried out a field experiment in 2015 and 2016 at two locations in the United States with distinctive climates, Mount Vernon, WA and Knoxville, TN. Three plastic mulches marketed as biodegradable (BioAgri, Organix, and Naturecycle), one fully biodegradable paper mulch (WeedGuardPlus), and one experimental plastic BDM consisting of polylactic acid and polyhydroxyalkanoates (Exp. PLA/PHA) were evaluated against PE mulch and bare ground where ‘Cinnamon Girl’ pie pumpkin was the test crop. There was significant weed pressure in the bare ground plots at both locations over both years, indicating viable weed seed banks at the field sites. Even so, weed pressure was minimal across mulch treatments at both locations over both years because the mulches remained sufficiently intact during the growing season. The exceptions were Naturecycle in 2015 at both locations because of the splitting of the mulch and consequently higher percent soil exposure (PSE), and the penetration of all the plastic mulches at Knoxville by nutsedge (Cyperus sp. L.); nutsedge did not penetrate WeedGuardPlus. At Mount Vernon, overall pumpkin yield across both years averaged 18.1 t·ha−1, and pumpkin yield was the greatest with PE, Exp. PLA/PHA, BioAgri, and Naturecycle (19.9–22.8 t·ha−1), intermediate with Organix and WeedGuardPlus (15.3–18.4 t·ha−1), and the lowest for bare ground (8.7 t·ha−1). At Knoxville, overall pumpkin yield across both years averaged 17.7 t·ha−1, and pumpkin yield did not differ because of treatment (15.3–20.4 t·ha−1). The differences in yield between treatments at Mount Vernon were likely because of differences in the soil temperature. At 10 cm depth, the average soil temperature was 1 °C lower for bare ground and WeedGuardPlus as compared with PE mulch and plastic BDMs (20.8 °C). In contrast, soil temperatures were generally higher (25.2 to 28.3 °C) for all treatments at Knoxville and more favorable to crop yield compared with Mount Vernon. Forty-two percent to 59% of pumpkin fruit had mulch adhesion at harvest at Mount Vernon, whereas only 3% to 12% of fruit had mulch adhesion at Knoxville. This difference was because of the location of fruit set—at Mount Vernon, most of the fruit set was on the mulch whereas at Knoxville, vine growth was more extensive and fruit set was mostly in row alleys. Fruit quality differences among treatments were minimal during storage across both locations and years except for total soluble solids (TSS) in 2016, which was lower for bare ground and WeedGuardPlus compared with all the plastic mulches. Taken overall, these results indicate that pie pumpkin grown with BDM has fruit yield and quality comparable to PE mulch; however, adhesion of some BDMs on fruit could affect marketable yield. Furthermore, paper mulch appears to prevent nutsedge penetration.