Ornamental Research

Diatomaceous Earth, a Silica product, Applied as a Top Dress

silicaThe use of soilless substrates in greenhouse and nursery production limits the availability of Silicon (Si) to plants. Si is the second most abundant element on earth and is present in various forms such as silicon dioxide (silica) or silicates. Plants take up Si in a soluble form such as Si(OH)4 or Si (OH)3O- which is deposited in the endoplasmic reticulum, cell walls, and intercellular spaces. Si is a beneficial element for plants and helps alleviate biotic and abiotic stress. The latest research shows that plants benefit in many important ways from supplemental soluble silicon. These benefits include greater tolerance of environmental stresses, such as cold, heat, drought, salinity, mineral toxicity or deficiency, improved growth rates and resistance to insects and fungi. Plants with silicon also show a decrease in leaf and flower senescence and the shelf life of cut flowers is extended. Research into potential benefits of adding silica is fairly new and the use of it is species dependent. In our two-part study, we established different silica rates and application methods to evaluate its effects on plant growth and health of Gerbera, Rudbeckia, Dahlia, and Zinnia while under stress conditions such as drought.

Supplemental Carbon dioxide and Its Effect on Water and Fertilizer Requirement of Ornamental Plants

CO2Carbon dioxide (CO2) availability plays a major role in rate of photosynthesis, which is the only process for plant growth and carbon accumulation in plants. Many studies have shown that within a few centuries the CO2 level will rise up to 1500 ppm with the current developmental and industrialization trend. However, sealed greenhouses having reduced gas exchange rate, the CO2 level always drops below the ambient level of 405 ppm and suppress the potential growth of plants.  CO2 supplementation is the only way of increasing CO2 in the greenhouse. In this study, effect of supplemental CO2 along with three automated tensiometer controlled irrigation treatments of 5, 10 and 15 centi bars and four fertilizer treatments 0, 3, 6, 9  g, a 3-4 months slow release formula were studied in three geranium, gladiolus, and fountain grass. In order to understand the effect of treatments, photosynthesis, transpiration, stomatal conductance, height, width, days for flowering, number of flowers and shoot dry weight were measured. The objective of the study was to understand the effect of supplemental CO2 on water and fertilizer requirement of ornamental plants in greenhouse conditions as well to analyze how plants will perform in the future when CO2 level will rise above the ambient level. Although manuscript is currently in progress, observation has shown a difference in rate of photosynthesis, number of days for flowering, and shoot dry weight between treatments.  If results are observed as expected, the study may be useful in water and fertilizer management in greenhouses supplemented with CO2.

Potted plant production is a billion dollar market in the plant industry. 

sensorsGrowers are looking for ways to increase production quality while decreasing cost and environmental impact. The use of nondestructive, optical sensors has been investigated on twelve different greenhouse crops (including poinsettia, chrysanthemum, marigold, and geranium) to improve nitrogen use efficiency, increase plant quality, develop a sampling protocol, and reduce costs associated with other sampling methods. 

Fact Sheet HLA-6719 has been developed to inform growers about optical sensors. Results from the studies have shown that for all but one crop, the atLEAF chlorophyll sensor performed as well as the SPAD chlorophyll meter, which is considered the standard but costs ten times as much as the atLEAF sensor. Location of sensor readings within a leaf and not just location within a plant canopy can affect readings.  In addition, a new mobile iPhone app (Plant Nitrogen Recommendations) was developed where someone can input atLEAF, SPAD, or leaf nitrogen lab analysis values into the app for over 150 different ornamental crops. The app then gives a recommendation if additional fertilizer is needed.  Current research is looking at how many samples are needed for accurate analysis, what affect other nutrients have on sensor readings, and how timing of fertilizer application can affect sensor readings.

Native Prairiegrass Seed Germination and Establishment

native prairiegrassThe Central Great Plains area has a rich heritage of tallgrass and shortgrass prairie, but most of the native prairies have been lost to urbanization and agricultural production.  Native grasses and forbes have ornamental value and can be used to re-establish small prairie ecosystems if they can be managed.  Understanding native plant reproduction strategies and environmental needs such as amount of water needed to establish and survive is beneficial to those interested in these ecosystems.  Managed prairie-scapes can be an alternative to highly managed landscapes in areas where it is difficult to mow (such as on hillsides) or where highly managed landscapes are not needed.  The prairie ecosystem can reduce fuel needed for mowing and otherwise maintaining highly managed landscapes, and they may use less water than other plant species.  Our research is investigating dormancy mechanisms used by native tallgrass and shortgrass prairie plants.  As we understand the germination needs of these species, we can begin to investigate establishment and maintenance needs.


Document Actions