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Improving the Quality and Shelf Life of Bedding and Potted Plants While Reducing Water Usage.
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Retail environments are rarely optimal for ornamental plants, and wilting caused by water stress is a major cause of postproduction shrinkage. The objective of this study was to determine the effect of reducing substrate moisture content (SMC) from 40% to 20% during bedding and potted plants greenhouse production on growth and development, plant production and postproduction quality, and economic value. Five experiments were conducted to evaluate the response of bedding plants species/cultivars and the response of poinsettias to reduced SMC. In experiment 1, two SMC levels were applied during greenhouse production to angelonia (Angelonia angustifolia) ‘Angelface Blue’ and heliotrope (Heliotropium arborescens) ‘Simply Scentsational’. Growth and physiological parameters were evaluated, as well as subsequent postproduction quality during simulated retail conditions. 20% SMC produced more compact angelonia with less inputs and higher postproduction quality. Heliotrope grown at 20% SMC produced the same size plant as 40% SMC, but had a higher visual quality compared with 40% SMC. In experiments 2 and 3, two SMC levels (20% or 40%) were applied with four timing of application combinations to poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) ‘Freedom Red’ in 2016 and ‘Christmas Eve Red’ in 2017. Total production (TP) time was 14 (2016) or 12 (2017) weeks, during which vegetative production (VP) occurred from week 33 (2016) or 35 (2017) to week 39 and reproductive production (RP) continued from week 40 to 47. The four timing of application treatments were: 40/40 = TP at 40% SMC; 20/40 = VP at 20% + RP at 40%; 40/20 = VP at 40% + RP at 20%; 20/20 = TP at 20% SMC. After simulated shipping in the dark, plants were evaluated in a simulated retail environment with two packaging treatments: no sleeve covering or plastic perforated plant sleeves covering container and plant. Reducing SMC to 20% during TP or during RP reduced water usage during production and produced more compact plants with increased postproduction quality. In experiments 4 and 5, two SMC levels (20% or 40%) were applied during production of six bedding plant species/cultivars Solenostemon scutellarioides 'French Quarter' (coleus), Petunia × hybrida 'Colorworks Pink Radiance' (petunia), Lantana camara 'Lucky Flame' (lantana), Impatiens × hybrida 'Sunpatiens Compact Hot Coral' (SCC) and ‘Sunpatiens Spreading Lavender’ (SSL) (impatiens), and Salvia splendens ‘Red Hot Sally II’ (salvia) greenhouse production. Considering production and/or postproduction quality, using 20% SMC during greenhouse production is beneficial as an alternative irrigation method for these cultivars of angelonia, heliotrope, coleus, petunia, impatiens SSL, salvia and poinsettia, but not for impatiens SCC or lantana.
substrate moisture content
Guo, Yanjun (2018). Improving the Quality and Shelf Life of Bedding and Potted Plants While Reducing Water Usage.. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from