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Robert J. Dufault

The first objective of this paper is to review and characterize the published research in refereed journals pertaining to the nutritional practices used to grow vegetable transplants. The second objective is to note those studies that indicated a direct relationship between transplant nutritional practices and field performance. The third objective is to suggest some approaches that are needed in future vegetable transplant nutrition research. Even after review of the plethora of available information in journals, it is not possible to summarize the one best way to grow any vegetable transplant simply because of many interacting and confounding factors that moderate the effects of nutritional treatments. It is, however, important to recognize that all these confounding factors must be considered when developing guidelines for producing transplants. After thorough review of this information, it is concluded that transplant nutrition generally has a long term effect on influencing yield potential. Therefore, derivation of a nutritional regime to grow transplants needs to be carefully planned. It is hoped that the information that follows can be used to help guide this process.

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V.M. Russo

The efficacy of using potting media and fertilizers that are alternatives to conventional materials to produce vegetable transplants needs clarification. Bell pepper, onion and watermelon seed were sown in Container Mix, Lawn and Garden Soil, and Potting Soil, which can be used for organic production in greenhouse transplant production. The alternative media were amended with a 1× rate of Sea Tea liquid fertilizer. Comparisons were made to a system using a conventional potting medium, Reddi-Earth, fertilized with a half-strength (0.5×) rate of a soluble synthetic fertilizer (Peters). Watermelon, bell pepper and onion seedlings were lifted at 3, 6, and 8 weeks, respectively, and heights and dry weights determined. Watermelon were sufficiently vigorous for transplanting regardless of which medium and fertilizer was used. Bell pepper and onion at the scheduled lifting were sufficiently vigorous only if produced with conventional materials. Additional experiments were designed to determine the reason(s) for the weaker seedlings when the alternative products were used. Seedlings maintained in transplant trays, in which media amended weekly with Sea Tea were required to be held for up to an additional 34 days before being vigorous enough for transplanting. Six-week-old bell pepper, or 8-week-old onion, seedlings were transferred to Reddi-Earth in pots and supplied with Sea Tea or Peters fertilizer. Bell pepper treated with Peters were taller and heavier, but onions plants were similar in height and weight regardless of fertilizer used. Other pepper seed were planted in Reddi-Earth and fertilized weekly with Sea Tea at 0.5×, 1×, 2×, or 4× the recommended rate, or the 0.5× rate of Peters. There was a positive linear relationship between seedling height and dry weight for seedlings treated with increasing rates of Sea Tea. Other pepper seed were planted in to Potting Soil, or an organically certified potting medium (Sunshine), and fertilized with a 2× or 4× rate of Sea Tea or a 1×, 2×, or 4× rate of an organic fertilizer (Rocket Fuel), or in Reddi-Earth fertilized with a 0.5× rate of Peters. There was a positive linear relationship between the rate of Rocket Fuel and heights and dry weights of bell pepper seedlings. However, even at the highest rate seedlings were not equivalent to those produced with conventional practices. Plants treated with the 4× rate of Sea Tea were similar to those produced using conventional materials. Use of Sunshine potting medium and the 4× rate of Sea Tea will produce bell pepper seedlings equivalent in height and dry weight to those produced using conventional materials. The 4× rate of Rocket Fuel used in Sunshine potting medium will produce adequate bell pepper seedlings. The original poor showing of seedlings in the alternative potting media appears to be due to fertilization with Sea Tea at a rate that does not adequately support seedling development.

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Jinrong Liu, W. Roland Leatherwood and Neil S. Mattson

Vegetable transplants for consumer purchase represent an important segment of the U.S. bedding plant industry. In 2008, the wholesale value of this group was ≈$92 million for commercial floriculture growers in surveyed states that had $100,000 or

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Charles S. Vavrina and William Summerhill

Thirty-four operators produced > 1.15 billion vegetable transplants in Florida in the 1989-90 season. Sales, concentrated in the winter and spring, were estimated at $30 million. Firms in the industry also made additional sales of ornamental and agronomic plants. Nine large firms accounted for 88% of all transplants produced. More than 109 acres (44 ha) of greenhouse area are allocated to containerized vegetable production. The majority (83%) of Florida s vegetable transplants were from three crops--tomatoes (45%), peppers (28%), and cabbage (10%). Only 36% of the transplants produced in the state were shipped out-of-state. This report discusses various facets of production, marketing, labor, and general business conditions of the containerized vegetable transplant industry.

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Lindsay C. Paul and James D. Metzger

Vermicomposting is a promising method of transforming unwanted and virtually unlimited supplies of organic wastes into usable substrates. In this process, the digestive tracts of certain earthworm species (e.g., Eisenia fetida) are used to stabilize organic wastes. The final product is an odorless peat-like substance, which has good structure, moisture-holding capacity, relatively large amounts of available nutrients, and microbial metabolites that may act as plant growth regulators. For these reasons, vermicompost has the potential to make a valuable contribution to soilless potting media. The objective of this study was to evaluate the transplant quality and field performance of vegetable transplants grown in vermicompost. Tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.), eggplant (Solanum melongena L.), and pepper (Capsicum annuum L.) transplants were grown in a commercial soilless mix including 0%, 10%, or 20% (v/v) worm-worked cattle manure. Growth of vegetable transplants was positively affected by addition of vermicompost, perhaps by altering the nutritional balance of the medium. Transplant quality was improved in peppers and eggplants while tomato transplant quality was slightly reduced. There were no significant differences in field performance.

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Sherrod A. Baden and Joyce G. Latimer

A brushing system for vegetable transplants that is adjustable, easy to use, and provides uniform brushing action was designed and constructed. Using this system, the height of several species and cultivars of vegetable transplants was reduced 15% to 50%. Quality and uniformity also were improved, and edge effects on growth were reduced.

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Amnon Koren* and Menahem Edelstein

Grafting technology for vegetable transplants was introduced to Israel eight years ago by Hishtil Nurseries, Inc. The main goal of grafting was to find a substitute for methyl bromide, the elimination of which was pending. The use of grafted watermelon transplants soon followed. Presently, more than 40% of watermelon transplants are grafted. The chief reason for the success of grafted transplants is their tolerance to soil-borne pathogens, including Fusarium, Monosporascus, and Macrophomina. Yields of grafted transplants are often much higher, and it has been shown possible to grow watermelons with saline water (4.5). A limitation of grafted transplants is that presently, we do not have a good solution for nematodes. A drawback is that in order to get good watermelon taste and flavour, the grower needs the experience to adjust agrotechniques, especially determining the best harvest date. Grafted tomato transplants were also introduced early on. Grafted tomato transplants can have excellent resistance to fusarium crown rot, corky root, and other soil-borne pathogens. Some rootstocks have been observed to tolerate water salinity of 8 ec and still produce commercially acceptable yields. Limitations to the use of grafted tomato transplants are the lack of compatibility of some of the cultivars with the rootstocks and the breakdown of nematode resistance at high soil temperatures. Melons, eggplants, and cucumbers are grafted under some conditions.

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Amnon Koren* and Menahem Edelstein

Achieving a uniform stand of grafted vegetable transplants in the field is critical to the grower because of the high cost of the grafted transplants. Low and erratic stands can lead to monetary losses even in an otherwise successful crop. Establishing a uniform stand of grafted vegetable transplants in the field depends on several additive parameters prevailing in the nursery and in the field. These include seed quality, grafted-transplant quality, and agrotechniques suitable for the special needs of grafted transplants. Seed quality and seed health should be given special emphasis as compared with non-grafted-transplant production. Grafted transplants spend more time in the nursery, are treated manually more, and are more susceptible to seed-borne pathogens. Field preparation, plastic mulch, irrigation and fertilization are important, especially in warm, mediterranean climates.

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Steven C. Adams

Seed vigor has a very subtle effect on the productivity of greenhouses producing vegetable transplants, celery, cauliflower, lettuce, etc. and on todays highly mechanized automatic or semi-automatic transplanting operations. As greenhouse production technology moves from traditional bare root to plug/tray growing systems and as automatic and semi-automatic transplanting operations increase in number, the impact of poor seed vigor is realized.

Measures to mitigate the impact of poor seed vigor in the nursery are: Seed density grading; increased growing cycle in the nursery, hand culling or replanting. Measures to mitigate the impact of poor seed vigor in automatic transplanting operations: increase the number of people following the planter to replace poor vigor plants; use hand fed transplanters.

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Jack W. Buxton and Wenwei Jia

Cabbage seed was germinated and grown to transplanting size in a 98-cell tray using an automatic irrigation system based on the principle of maintaining a constant water table (CWT) relative to the growing medium in transplant trays. Seedlings obtained a nutrient solution from a capillary mat with one end suspended in a trough containing the solution. The distance between the nutrient solution surface and the transplant tray bottom was regulated with a water level controller. The nutrient solution was resupplied from a larger reservoir. A polyester material on top of the capillary mat allowed solution movement to the roots but prevented root penetration into the mat. The water table placement below the tray determined the water content in the growing medium. Seedling growth was evaluated using two growing media combined with two water table placements. Excellent quality seedlings were produced; the CWT irrigation system satisfactory provided water and nutrients for the duration of the crop. The only problems observed were dry cells, less than 2%, because of no media–mat contact and algae growth on the media surface using the higher water table. The CWT irrigation system is adaptable to existing greenhouse vegetable transplant production systems. It is automatic and can provide a constant optimum amount of moisture for seedling growing. It can be adjusted for phases of seedling growing such as more water during germination and can create water stress near transplanting time to either harden off or hold plants because of unfavorable planting conditions.