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Producing robust plugs – Part I

Growing high-quality, seed-propagated bedding plants starts with a robust and toned plug. Judiciously manage crop cultural practices and environmental factors such as substrate moisture, pH and EC, light and temperature to produce the best plugs possible. First up — moisture management.

by Nick Flax - nzf123@psu.edu 

We are at the beginning of April and the 2019 bedding plant season is coming to a head Commercial propagators have been shipping out plugs since as early as January, but many greenhouses, particularly in the northern US, have plugs in the final stages of production and are preparing for transplant.

When it comes to producing high-quality, seed-propagated bedding plants, the quality of plugs used greatly impacts the finished product. Though the amount of time a plug spends in production is relatively short, crop cultural and environmental factors affect their growth and quality very quickly. Uniform, vigorous, and floriferous plants are what consumers look for, and growing a plant that fits that bill starts in the plug phase.

At the end of January, one of my e-Gro colleagues (Chris Currey) wrote about improving seed germination/radicle emergence, and cotyledon expansion (often referred to as plug Stages 1 and 2, respectively; see e-Gro Alert 8.05). If you followed Chris' suggestions, you are probably on the right track to producing some great plugs. Over my next few e-Gro Alerts, we will cover best management practices for the final two stages of plug production; true-leaf expansion and toning (Stages 3 and 4, respectively). This week, managing moisture to maintain plug uniformity and encourage rooting will be the focus.

Read the full e-GRO Alert here.


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