The amount of fertilizer applied during the commercial production of bedding plants has decreased in recent years because of increasing concerns about environmental impacts and the need to minimize production costs. However, reduced fertilization affects plant growth and flowering during production and in the postproduction environment. Plants grown with lower nutrient levels may perform satisfactorily during greenhouse production, but they may possess insufficient nutrients to sustain further growth in the postproduction environment, where fertilizer application is frequently lacking. This study examined conventional and alternative fertilizer delivery strategies that produce high-quality petunia ( Petunia × hybrida ) during greenhouse production and continue to support plant growth and flowering in the postproduction environment.
The fertilizer treatments during production consisted of four constant liquid fertilization (CLF) treatments of 0, 50, 100, or 200 ppm nitrogen (N) and three controlled-release fertilization (CRF) treatments (0, 4, or 8 lb/yard ³ ). Three pulse fertilization (PF) treatments (0, 300, or 600 ppm N) were applied immediately before moving the plants to the postproduction environment. During production, petunia growth and development increased as CLF increased from 0 to 200 ppm N, but the addition of CRF resulted in the increase occurring at a declining rate. During postproduction, the interactive effects of CLF and CRF continued in a similar pattern as that seen in the production environment.
The additional PF treatments resulted in further increases in plant growth. Across all CLF and CRF treatments, the leaf area increased from 466 to 540 cm ² as PF increased from 0 to 300 ppm N, and the leaf area increased further to 631 cm ² as PF increased from 300 to 600 ppm N. Based on our findings, two alternative strategies are possible. First, 0 to 50 ppm N CLF can be combined with 4 lb/yard ³ CRF. The second strategy maintains the standard commercial practice of applying 100 ppm N CLF treatment and then applying a 300- to 600-ppm N PF treatment. These results suggest that a relatively low CLF rate can be used to achieve the desired production characteristics while reducing the cost of plant growth regulation, and that additional plant nutrition can be provided with CRF and/or PF to enhance the postproduction performance.
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Park, Jiwoo & Faust, James. (2021). Fertilization Strategy Affects Production and Postproduction Performance of Petunia. HortTechnology. 1-8. 10.21273/HORTTECH04764-20.