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William R. Argo

Acceptable physical properties are an integral part of root-media quality. However, there is no one growing medium that works best in all situations because root-media physical properties are not constant, but rather can be affected by the grower. Understanding the root environment under production conditions requires an understanding of the dynamic nature of air : water : solid ratio in the medium. The objective of this review is to consider key aspects of root-medium physical properties, which include bulk density and particle size, container capacity, media settling, water absorption, rewettability, moisture release characteristics, and water loss due to evaporation from the root-medium surface.

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Chris A. Martin and Dewayne L. Ingram

Computer modeling was used to study the effect of container volume and shape on summer temperature patterns for black polyethylene nursery containers filled with a 4 pine bark: 1 sand (v/v) rooting medium and located in Phoenix, Ariz. (lat. 33.5°N, long. 112°W) or Lexington, Ky. (lat. 38.0°N, long. 84.4°W). For both locations, medium temperatures were highest at the east and west container walls, halfway down the container profile, regardless of container height (20 to 50 cm) or volume (10 to 70 liters). The daily maximum medium temperature (Tmax) at the center was lower and occurred later in the day as container volume was increased because of an increased distance to the container wall. For both locations, predicted temperature patterns in rooting medium adjacent to the container wall decreased as the wall tilt angle (TA) increased. Predicted temperature patterns at the center of the container profile were lowered in response to the interaction of increased container height and wall TA. As container height decreased, the container wall TA necessary to lower center Tmax to ≤ 40C increased; however, the required increase in TA was greater for Phoenix than for Lexington, principally because of higher ambient air temperatures.

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Pauline H. Andrews and P. Allen Hammer

–17906 of the Purdue University Office of Agricultural Research. We thank The Scotts Company for supplying root media and Oglevee Ltd. for supplying rooted cuttings for this study.

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Pauline H. Kaufmann* and P. Allen Hammer

In 2002 the USDA reported potted geraniums accounted for $150 million in wholesale value, more than any other bedding or garden plant surveyed. Despite the importance of the geranium in floriculture production, little published research data is available pertaining to the media pH requirements of zonal and ivy geraniums. Current recommendations suggest zonal geraniums be grown at pH 5.7-6.6 and ivy geraniums at pH 5.0-6.2. The wide range in root medium pH recommendations for both zonal and ivy geraniums and the lack of research data prompted this research. Also, the basis for recommending a lower medium pH for ivy geraniums could not be found in published literature. The research objectives were to investigate the effect of medium pH on plant growth and to determine more precise recommendations for both species. The growth of 3 cultivars each of zonal and ivy geraniums growing in 8 medium pH treatments were evaluated. Limestone and hydrated lime were incorporated at increasing rates into a 1:1:1 peat, perlite and bark mix to achieve a medium pH ranging from pH 4.0-7.5. Plants were harvested at weeks 3, 6, and 11 and plant dry weight and media pH were determined. Leaf luminance, chroma and hue were evaluated at week 10. Plant dry weight was greatest at pH 6.55 or higher for both zonal and ivy geraniums at week 11. Leaves of plants grown at pH 6.55 or higher had significantly lower luminance and chroma and greater hue in all cultivars, corresponding to leaves that were darker, less vivid, and deeper green in color. This study shows a root medium pH greater than pH 6.5 results in greatest plant dry weight accumulation and quality of leaf color for both zonal and ivy geraniums. This study also shows ivy geraniums can be grown at the same media pH as zonal geraniums.

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Becky R. Hughes*, Wanda J. Cook, and Candy N.F. Keith

In vitro rooting and subsequent greenhouse survival of `Autumn Britten', `Boyne', `Comet',`Nova' and `Qualicum' raspberry (Rubus idaeus L.) plantlets were compared following four weeks on a rooting medium with and without activated charcoal, and with 0.1, 0.5, 1.0, 2.0 or 3.0 milligrams per litre IBA. The addition of charcoal significantly increased the percentage of plantlets that produced roots in vitro for the hard-to-root cultivars. Percent rooting in vitro was highest with the three lower levels of IBA. Root number was influenced only by the cultivar, while root diameter and length were affected by all the factors investigated. Greenhouse survival was affected by the cultivar, the presence or absence of charcoal and the IBA level in the in vitro rooting medium, with significant interactions. Provided charcoal was present in the rooting medium, the level of IBA didn`t alter survival. The addition of charcoal to the rooting medium improved greenhouse survival of the three hardest-to-root cultivars. Plug plant stem length; internode length and dry weight were increased by the presence of charcoal in the in vitro rooting medium for all but the easiest to establish cultivar. Chemical names used: 3-indolebutyric acid (IBA).

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William R. Argo and John A. Biernbaum

`V-14 Glory' poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima Willd. ex Klotzsch) were grown in five root media using top watering with 20% leaching for 112 days. Root media with a high water-holding capacity required fewer irrigations and fertilizer applications than those with a lower water-holding capacity. However, similar amounts of water were applied and leached with both types of root media over the entire experiment. The reduction in the number of fertilizations was compensated for by an increase in the amount (volume) of fertilizer applied at any one irrigation. The greatest differences in root-media nutrient concentrations were found between the top 2.5 cm (top layer) and the remaining root medium within the same pot (root zone). After 58 days, when fertilization with water-soluble fertilizer (28.6N–0P–8.5K mol·m–3) was stopped, nutrient concentrations in the top layer were 3 to 6 times greater than those in the root zone for all five root media tested. For the final 42 days of the experiment after fertilization was stopped, nutrient concentrations in the root zone remained at acceptable levels in all root media. The nutrients contained in the top layer may have provided a source of nutrients for the root zone once fertilization was stopped.

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Kimberly A. Williams and Paul V. Nelson

Soilless container root media have little capacity to retain P, and preplant amendments of triple superphosphate (TSP) and water-soluble fertilizer (WSF) P applications are readily leached from them. A soilless medium modified with Al2(SO4)3 was tested to reduce such P losses. Aluminum sulfate solutions were applied to a 70 sphagnum peat: 30 perlite (v/v) medium to result in 0.32, 0.96, and 1.92 kg Al/m3 and dried at 70C. Adsorption isotherms (25C, 0 to 500 mg P/liter) showed that P retention increased as the rate of Al addition increased. In a greenhouse study, plants of Dendranthema ×grandiflorum (Ramat.) Kitamura `Sunny Mandalay' were grown in Al-modified media and an unmodified medium in factorial combination with P from preplant amendment of 0.1 kg TSP-P/m3, or P applied at each watering as WSF at rates of 5.5 or 21.8 mg P/liter. The two highest rates of Al were excessive and resulted in low pH and excessive soluble Al levels in the root medium solution early in the cropping cycle, which were detrimental to plant growth. When the root medium was modified with 0.32 kg Al/m3, soluble Al levels in medium solution were not significantly different than in the unmodified control. TSP-P that leached was substantially reduced by the addition of Al, yet sufficient P was released throughout the cropping cycle for adequate plant growth. Plants grown in Al-modified medium with 0.1 kg TSP-P/m3 did not differ from control plants in unmodified medium + 0.27 kg TSP-P/m3 and were larger than plants grown in unmodified medium + 0.1 kg TSP-P/m3. Aluminum modification of the root medium substantially reduced P leaching when used with WSF containing P. In addition, growth of plants in unmodified medium fertilized with 5.5 vs. 21.8 mg P/liter was similar.

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Jaime K. Morvant, John M. Dole, and Earl Allen

Pelargonium hortorum Bailey `Pinto Red' plants were grown with 220 mg·L−1 N (20N-4.4P-16.6K) using hand (HD), microtube (MT), ebb-and-flow (EF), and capillary mat (CM) irrigation systems. At harvest, root balls were sliced into three equal regions: top, middle, and bottom. A negative correlation existed between root medium electrical conductivity (EC) and N concentration to root number such that the best root growth was obtained with low medium EC and N concentrations. EF root numbers were greatest in the middle region. The two subirrigation systems (EF and CM) had higher average root numbers than the two surface-irrigation systems (HD and MT). For all irrigation systems, root numbers were lowest in the top region. In general, less difference in medium soluble salt and N concentrations existed between regions for surface-irrigated than for subirrigated root balls. Soluble salt concentration was lowest in the bottom and middle regions of EF and the bottom region of MT and CM. For subirrigation, the highest medium soluble salt and N concentration was in the top region. For all systems, pH was lowest in the bottom region. Plant growth for all irrigation systems was similar. EF and MT systems required the least water and EF resulted in the least runoff volume.

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William R. Argo, John A. Biernbaum, and William C. Fonteno

Medium CO2 and O2 partial pressures were measured at three locations [3.8 (top layer), 7.5 (middle layer), and 10.3 (bottom layer) cm below the rim] in 15-cm-tall pots containing flowering chrysanthemums [Dendranthem×grandiflorum (Ramat.) Kitamura] grown in one of three root media. Average ambient medium CO2 and O2 partial pressures were 63 Pa and 21 kPa, respectively, and were similar in the three sampled layers in root media with an average moisture content of 50% to 60% of container capacity. Within 10 minutes after a drip-irrigation application of well water containing a titratable alkalinity to pH 4.5 of 320 mg CaCO3/liter, the partial pressure of medium CO2 increased to ≤1600 Pa and medium O2 decreased to 20.5 kPa in the top and middle layers of the pot. With subirrigation, medium CO2 partial pressures increased to ≤170 Pa and medium O2 remained at 21 kPa. When reverse-osmosis purified water (titratable alkalinity to pH 4.5 of <20 mg CaCO3/liter) was used instead of well water, the large increase in medium CO2 did not occur, indicating that the bicarbonate alkalinity in the irrigation water was the source of CO2. The high medium CO2 partial pressure measured after irrigation was not persistent; within 180 minutes, it returned to levels averaging 45% higher (100 Pa) than that measured before the irrigation. Medium O2 also had returned to ambient levels 180 minutes after the irrigation.

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Ronald F. Walden and Robert D. Wright

Rooted cuttings of Ilex crenata Thunb. `Helleri' were grown for 12 weeks in pine bark with two root-zone temperature treatments (unheated or heated to 40C for 6 hours·day–1), two rates of limestone addition (0 or 6 kg·m–3), and three weekly N application rates (200, 400, or 600 mg·liter–1 as urea ammonium nitrate) in a factorial combination. Decreases in shoot and root dry weights due to root-zone heating (69% and 75%, respectively) or limestone addition (41% and 42%, respectively) were not influenced by N application rate. Effects of root-zone heating on medium solution characteristics, which differed in response to limestone addition, were similar for all N application levels. In unlimed pine bark at 400 mg N/liter, the pH and the NH4-N: NO3-N ratio were higher in the heated medium (5.5 and 1.15, respectively) than in the unheated medium (3.9 and 0.64, respectively) after 80 days, suggesting that 6 hours of daily exposure to 40C inhibited nitrification. The higher medium solution pH due to root-zone heating resulted in lower medium solution and shoot tissue Mn concentrations.