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Rose A. Ogutu, Kimberly A. Williams, and Gary M. Pierzynski

Small volumes (2% to 20%) of a variety of calcined clay-type products are being used as components of soilless root media because of their potential to increase nutrient retention, air space, water retention, and bulk density of mixes used for

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Young-Mi Oh, Paul V. Nelson, and Dean L. Hesterberg

Soilless root media retain very little phosphate. This characteristic necessitates continual application of phosphate, which leads to excessive application and leaching. The phosphate desorption characteristics of synthetic hematite (a-Fe2O3), goethite (a-FeOOH), allophane (Si3Al4O12 *nH2O), and a commercial alumina (Al2O3), previously determined for their maximum adsorption capacities, were evaluated to determine their potential for providing a low, constant soil solution phosphate supply with low phosphate leaching from soilless root media. The desorption isotherms of the clay minerals were obtained by introducing 10 mM KCl solution at 0.2 ml/min flow rate into a stirred flow reaction chamber loaded with clay adsorbed with phosphate at maximum adsorption capacity. The suspension in the reaction chamber was held at pH 6.4 during desorption. Effluent solutions were collected for phosphorus analysis until the equilibrium concentration of phosphorus in solution reached 0.05 mg•L-1. Adsorbed phosphorus at 0.05 mg•L-1 equilibrium concentration in solution was in the order allophane (19 mg•g-1) > alumina™ goethite (8 mg•g-1) > hematite (1.3 mg•g-1). The equilibrium concentration of phosphorus in solution over time showed that allophane releases phosphate for a longer time than the other clay minerals at a desirable soil solution concentration for plants, less than 5 mg•L-1. Among the clay minerals tested, allophane showed the most favorable potential to supply phosphate to plants in soilless root media.

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Pauline H. Andrews and P. Allen Hammer

Limestone requirement tests are routine in agronomic laboratories; however, no tests exist for soilless root medium although there is still a need to predict the limestone additions. This research was to develop a rapid, accurate test to determine the limestone requirement of soilless root media for a specific pH. Thirty-four media formulations were amended with increasing rates of limestone. Media were incubated in the greenhouse. Pots were irrigated to container capacity every 2 days with RO-water; pH was recorded after 5 weeks; and limestone requirement for pH 5.5 was determined for each media. A modified SMP buffer procedure for mineral soils was used. A 40-mL aliquot of the SMP buffer was added to 6 g of media, equilibrated for 48 hours and pH determined. Media-buffer pH was plotted against the incubation limestone requirement for pH 5.5. A separate regression was required for media containing coir since the modified SMP buffer test overestimated the limestone requirement of coir media. The correlation for non-coir media was –0.97 (Y = -1.19x + 7.52) and -0.94 (Y = –1.12x + 6.14) for coir media. The procedure was verified using 15 media. Media-buffer pH was determined and the limestone requirement was calculated using the corresponding regression equation. Two sets of media treatments were potted and incubated in the greenhouse. Rooted cuttings of geranium `Candy Lavender' were transplanted into one set of pots. Pots were irrigated every 2 days with RO-water and geraniums were irrigated with nonacidified fertilizer water. Media pH was determined at week 5. Media was nonsignificant for pots or geraniums (P ≤ 0.01). The mean pH of non-coir media was pH 5.66 and 5.67 for pots and geraniums and pH 5.39 and 5.39, respectively, for coir media.

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Janet L. Carlino, Kimberly A. Williams, and Earl R. Allen

Chrysanthemum [Dendranthema ×grandiflorum (Ramat.) Kitamura] growth and nutrient leaching of three clinoptilolite-based root media—NZ, EZ1, and EZ2—were compared to the performance of control plants grown in Sunshine Mix #2 [3 peat : 1 perlite (v/v)]. The control received 210 mg·L−1 N from an 18N-4P-15K soluble fertilizer at each irrigation. NZ contained untreated zeolite and received the same soluble fertilizer as the control but leached lower concentrations of NH4-N, K, and PO4-P during most of the production cycle compared to the control. EZ1 was formulated to provide N, P, and K as fertilizer nutrients and produced plants similar to the control based on ratings, height, width, and dry mass, but not fresh mass, at harvest when the fertilizer rate was half of that applied to the control—105 mg·L-1N. EZ2 did not receive P or K from soluble fertilizer and produced plants similar to the control based on rating, height, and dry mass, but not width or fresh mass, with soluble fertilizer input reduced to N alone. Tissue N, P, and K concentrations of plants grown in EZ1 and EZ2 were lower than those of control plants. With further refinements, these zeolitebased products show promise for decreasing nutrient leaching during crop production and allowing for application of lower rates of soluble fertilizers.

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Young-Mi Oh, Paul V. Nelson, and Dean L. Hesterberg

A soil material high in metal oxides collected from the Bw horizon of a Hemcross soil in the state of Oregon was charged with phosphate, added to a soilless root medium, and evaluated for its potential to supply phosphate at a low, stable concentration during 14 weeks of tomato cropping (three successive crops). Three rates of phosphate were charged on the soil material, 0, 2.2, and 6.5 m P/g soil material and the soil material was incorporated into a 3 peatmoss: 1 perlite (v:v) medium at 5 % (40 g) and 10 % (80 g) of the volume of a 13.6-cm pot (1.0 L of medium). Uncharged soil material incorporated into soilless root medium at 5% and 10% reduced soil solution phosphate to deficient levels for 2 and 7 weeks, respectively. Phosphate was adequately supplied for 7, 10, 12, and more than 14 weeks in the 2.2P-5%, 2.2P-10%, 6.5P-5%, and 6.5P-10% treatment, respectively, as determined by symptoms of P deficiency. Phosphate and K levels in soil solution were highest at the beginning of crop 1 and tended to decline thereafter. Incorporation of soil material into soilless root medium improved pH stability whether it was charged with phosphate or not. The loss of the phosphate-charged soil material was negligible, 0.3% for the 6.5P-5% treatment and 1.2% for the 6.5P-10% treatment. The minimum critical concentration of soil solution phosphate for tomato in a 3 peatmoss: 1 perlite (v:v) medium as determined by the pour-through extraction procedure was found to be 0.3 mg·L–1 or slightly less.

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William R. Argo and John A. Biernbaum

Hybrid impatiens (Impatiens wallerana Hook. F.) were planted into media containing two dolomitic liming materials {hydrated [Ca(OH)2 and Mg(OH)2] or carbonate (CaCO3 and MgCO3) lime} and subirrigated for 17 weeks with four irrigation water sources (IWS) and three water-soluble fertilizers (WSF). The WSF contained 200N–20P–200K mg·L-1 but varied in NH4 +-N content (50%, 25%, or 3%, respectively). Depending on the IWS and lime type used in the media, root-medium pH ranged from 4.5 to 6.0, 4.8 to 7.1, and 6.0 to 8.5 when treated with WSF containing either 50%, 25%, or 3% NH4 +-N, respectively, between 8 and 17 weeks after planting. The accumulation of NH4 +-N and NO3 --N in the root medium was different for treatments receiving the same WSF and depended on root-medium pH. The critical root-medium pH for NH4 +-N accumulation was between 5.4 and 5.7, and for NO3 --N, accumulation was between 5.3 to 5.9. Above this pH, minimal NH4 +-N concentrations were measured in the medium, even with 50% or 25% NH4 +-N WSF, while below this pH, NH4 +-N began to accumulate in the medium with a corresponding decrease in the NO3 --N concentration. The NH4-N: NO3-N ratios in the WSF had minimal effect on shoot fresh and dry weights. Tissue N concentration was higher with the higher NH4-N : NO3-N ratio WSF at all four sampling dates. There was a linear relationship between higher tissue N and lower root-medium pH with the same WSF, possibly due to differences in the ratio of NH4-N: NO3-N actually taken up by the plant.

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William R. Argo and John A. Biernbaum

Hybrid impatiens (Impatiens Wallerana Hook. F.) were planted in a peat-based medium containing two dolomitic liming materials (1.8 kg Ca(OH)2·Mg(OH)2/m3 or 8.4 kg CaCO3·MgCO3/m3) and subirrigated for 17 weeks using four irrigation-water sources (IWSs) with varied bicarbonate alkalinity, Ca2+, Mg2+, and SO4-S content and three water-soluble fertilizers (WSFs) that contained (in mg) 200N-20P-200K/liter but a variable NH4: NO3 ratio, Ca2+, Mg2+, and SO4-S content. The factorial arrangement of the IWS and WSF resulted in a range of Ca2+, Mg2+, and SO4-S concentrations varying by a factor of 10. After 8 weeks, medium pH ranged from 4.5 to 8.5. The maximum critical medium pH for PO4-P uptake was 7.4 to 7.7, which probably was due to a change in most of the water-soluble P to the less-available HPO4 2- form. Lime type did not affect the long-term increase in medium pH, Ca2+, and Mg2+ concentrations with nutrient solutions containing low NH4 +-N and high Ca2+ and Mg2+. The carbonate lime buffered the medium pH and Ca2+ and Mg2+ concentrations with nutrient solutions containing high NH4 +-N and low Ca2+ and Mg2+ compared to that measured with the hydrated lime. With both lime types, there was a linear increase in tissue Ca and Mg as the applied concentrations of the various nutrient solutions increased from 18 to 210 mg Ca2+/liter and 7 to 90 mg Mg2+/liter. The relationship was similar for both lime types up to week 8, after which tissue Ca and Mg decreased more rapidly with the hydrated lime and low solution Ca2+ and Mg2+ compared to that of the same carbonate lime treatments. The minimum critical SO4-S concentration in the applied nutrient solution for plant uptake was 30 to 40 mg S/liter. Below this concentration, tissue S decreased rapidly; above, there was little effect on tissue S.

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Kimberly A. Williams and Paul V. Nelson

Many soilless root media have limited ability to retain nutrients. Zeolites are minerals that have substantial nutrient buffering capacity and can be precharged with K, and possibly PO4, and combined with soilless media to provide these nutrients during crop production. The zeolite clinoptilolite was precharged with K and PO4 at two rates that were estimated from sorption isotherms to result in equilibrium root medium solution concentrations of P at >1 μg·ml–1 (low rate) and K at 125 μg·ml–1 (high rate). Precharged clinoptilolite was mixed with a 7 sphagnum peat: 3 perlite root medium to comprise 20% (v/v) and evaluated as the sole source of K and PO4 during production of Dendranthema ×grandiflorum (Ramat.) Kitamura `Sunny Mandalay'. Phosphate, K, Na, and pH were determined on unaltered bulk medium solutions collected over the course of the cropping cycle, and foliar analyses were determined on tissue collected at mid- and end of crop. Plants that relied on K release from precharged clinoptilolite at the low and high rates and received a N/P/-K fertilizer produced growth and tissue K concentrations that were not significantly different than the control which received a complete fertilizer. Plants that relied on PO4 release of precharged clinoptilolite did not result in growth or tissue P levels similar to those of the complete control. Phosphate levels in the root medium solution were adequate only during the first month of the cropping cycle, but PO4 release should be taken into consideration when developing a fertilization program using precharged clinoptilolite to provide other nutrients. Using precharged clinoptilolite at the low rate reduced K losses through leaching to 26% of the amount leached from control plants receiving K at 176 mg·L–1 at each watering.

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Kimberly A. Williams, Paul V. Nelson, and Dean Hesterberg

Soilless root media have little capacity to retain PO4 or K, and this contributes to leaching of these nutrients during greenhouse crop production. The objective of this research was to evaluate the suitability of precharged alumina as a sole source of PO4 and K during greenhouse production of potted chrysanthemum [Dendranthema ×grandiflora Kitam. (syn. Chrysanthemum ×morifolium Ramat.)]. Phosphate and K adsorption and desorption curves were created at 25 °C for two particle sizes (0.5 to 0.9 and 1.8 to 3.2 mm) of alumina (Al2O3; acid-washed and unwashed), and a medium of 7 peat: 3 perlite (v/v) using solutions of KH2 PO4 (P at 0 to 20,000 mg.L-1). Based on these curves, 1.8 to 3.2 mm, unwashed alumina was selected for use in the studies. Precharged alumina was tested in two greenhouse studies at 10% and 30% (v/v) of a peat-perlite medium used to produce `Sunny Mandalay' chrysanthemum. Phosphate, K, and pH were determined on unaltered root medium solutions collected throughout the 10-week cropping cycle, and foliar analyses were conducted on tissue collected at the middle and end of the cycle. Potassium release was adequate to meet chrysanthemum demand for 4 weeks, but inadequate for the remainder of the production cycle. Precharged alumina retained and released PO4 at sustained concentrations (P at <2 mg·L-1) over the course of a 10-week cropping cycle. Growth of plants receiving PO4 from precharged alumina was not significantly different from the controls receiving liquid fertilizer (P at 46.5 mg·L-1) at each watering when precharged alumina comprised 30% of the medium, and only slightly less when precharged alumina comprised 10% of the medium. A phosphorus budget showed that while 36% (103 mg) of the applied PO4-P was lost in the leachate of the controls, only 0.1% (2 mg) was lost from plants produced with alumina-P. This research demonstrates that in a soilless medium with physical properties similar to standard commercial mixes, low but adequate PO4 concentrations can be achieved and sustained using current production practices.

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Marci Spaw, Kimberly A. Williams, Laurie Hodges, Ellen T. Paparozzi, and Ingrid L. Mallberg

as next year's crops), and to guide decisions about disposal of symptomatic dicentra plants. Appropriate root medium extraction techniques. Ornamental crops are typically grown in soilless root media high in organic matter components such as sphagnum