[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: ADDITIONAL INDEX WORDS. biocontainer, biodegradable container, plantable container, water use, plastic container, sustainable nursery crop production SUMMARY. Market researchers have found that nursery and greenhouse production practices that reduce plastic use can increase consumer interest. However, there are broader crop performance, production efficiency, and environmental factors that must be considered before adopting containers made with alternative materials. This review highlights current commercially available alternative containers and parent materials. In addition, findings from recent and ongoing nursery, greenhouse , and landscape trials are synthesized, identifying common themes, inconsistencies , research gaps, and future research needs.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: As high-input systems, plant production facilities for liner and container
plants use large quantities of water, fertilizers, chemical pesticides, plastics, and
labor. The use of renewable and biodegradable inputs for growing aesthetically
pleasing and healthy plants could potentially improve the economic, environmental,
and social sustainability of current production systems. However, costs for production
components to integrate sustainable practices into established systems have
not been fully explored to date. Our objectives were to determine the economic costs
of commercial production systems using alternative containers in aboveground
nursery systems. We determined the cost of production (COP) budgets for two
woody plant species grown in several locations across the United States. Plants were
grown in plastic pots and various alternative pots made from wood pulp (WP),
fabric (FB), keratin (KT), and coconut fiber (coir). Cost of production inputs for
aboveground nursery systems included the plant itself (liner), liner shipping costs,
pot, pot shipping costs, substrate, substrate shipping costs, municipal water, and
labor. Our results show that the main difference in the COP is the price of the pot.
Although alternative containers could potentially increase water demands, water is
currently an insignificant cost in relation to the entire production process. Use of
alternative containers could reduce the carbon, water, and chemical footprints of
nurseries and greenhouses; however, the cost of alternative containers must become
more competitive with plastic to make them an acceptable routine choice for
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The green industry has identified the use of biodegradable containers as an alternative to plastic containers as a way to improve the sustainability of current production systems. Field trials were conducted to evaluate the performance of four types of 1-gal nursery biocontainers [keratin (KR), wood pulp (WP), fabric (FB), and coir fiber (Coir)] in comparison with standard black plastic (Plastic) containers on substrate temperature, water use, and biomass production in aboveground nurseries. Locations in Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, and Texas were selected to conduct experiments during May to Oct. 2012 using 'Green Velvet' boxwood (Buxus sempervirens · B. microphylla) and 'Dark Knight' bluebeard (Caryopteris ·clandonensis) in 2013. In this article, we were focusing on the impact of alternative container materials on hourly substrate temperature variations and plant growth. Substrate temperature was on an average higher (about 6 °C) in Plastic containers (about 36 °C) compared with that in WP, FB, and Coir containers. However, substrate temperature in KR containers was similar to Plastic. Substrate temperature was also influenced by local weather conditions with the highest substrate temperatures recorded in Texas followed by Kentucky, Mississippi, and Michigan. Laboratory and controlled environment trials using test containers were conducted in Kentucky to evaluate sidewall porosity and evaporation loss to confirm field observations. Substrate temperature was similar under laboratory simulation compared with field studies with the highest substrate temperature observed in Plastic and KR, intermediate in WP and lowest in FB and Coir. Side wall temperature was higher in Plastic, KR, and FB compared with WP and Coir, while side wall water loss was greatest in FB, intermediate in WP and Coir, and lowest in plastic and KR. These observations suggest that the contribution of sidewall water loss to overall container evapotranspiration has a major influence on reducing substrate temperature. The porous nature of some of the alternative containers increased water use, but reduced heat stress and enhanced plant survival under hot summer conditions. The greater drying rate of alterative containers especially in hot and dry locations could demand increased irrigation volume, more frequent irrigation, or both, which could adversely affect the economic and environmental sustainability of alternative containers.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Nine commercially available biocontainers and a plastic control were evaluated at Fayetteville, AR, and Crystal Springs, MS, to determine the irrigation interval and total water required to grow a crop of ‘Cooler Grape’ vinca (Catharanthus roseus) with or without the use of plastic shuttle trays. Additionally, the rate at which water passed through the container wall of each container was assessed with or without the use of a shuttle tray. Slotted rice hull, coconut fiber, peat, wood fiber, dairy manure, and straw containers were constructed with water-permeable materials or had openings in the container sidewall. Such properties increased the rate of water loss compared with more impermeable bioplastic, solid rice hull, and plastic containers. This higher rate of water loss resulted in most of the biocontainers having a shorter irrigation interval and a higher water requirement than traditional plastic containers. Placing permeable biocontainers in plastic shuttle trays reduced water loss through the container walls. However, irrigation demand for these containers was still generally higher than that of the plastic control containers.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Containers made from natural fiber and recycled plastic are marketed as sustainable substitutes for traditional plastic containers in the nursery industry. However, growers’ acceptance of alternative containers is limited by the lack of information on how alternative containers impact plant growth and water use (WU). Weconducted experiments in Michigan,Kentucky, Tennessee,Mississippi, and Texas to test plant growth and WU in five different alternative containers under nursery condition. In 2011, ‘Roemertwo’ wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei) wereplantedin three types of #1 (≈1 gal) containers 1) black plastic (plastic), 2) wood pulp (WP), and 3) recycled paper (KF). In 2012, ‘Green Velvet’ boxwood (Buxus sempervirens · B. microphylla siebold var. koreana) was evaluated in 1) plastic, 2)WP, 3) fabric (FB), and 4) keratin (KT). In 2013, ‘Dark Knight’ bluebeard (Caryopteris ·clandonensis) was evaluated in 1) plastic, 2) WP, and 3) coir fiber (Coir). Plants grownin alternative containers generally had similar plant growth as plastic containers. ‘Roemertwo’ wintercreeper had high mortality while overwintering in alternative containers with no irrigation. Results from different states generally show plants grown in fiber containers such asWP, FB, and Coir usedmorewater than those in plastic containers. Water use efficiency of plants grown in alternative containers vs. plastic containers depended on plant variety, container type, and climate.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: . The performance of biocontainers as sustainable alternatives to the traditional petroleum-based plastic containers has been researched in recent years due to increasing environmental concern generated by widespread plastic disposal from green industry. However, research has been mainly focused on using biocontainers in short-term greenhouse production of bedding plants, with limited research investigating the use of biocontainers in long-term nursery production of woody crops. This project investigated the feasibility of using biocontainers in a pot-in-pot (PIP) nursery production system. Two paper (also referred as wood pulp) biocontainers were evaluated in comparison with a plastic container in a PIP system for 2 years at four locations (Holt, MI; Lexington, KY; Crystal Springs, MS; El Paso, TX). One-year-old river birch (Betula nigra) liners were used in this study. Results showed that biocontainers stayed intact at the end of the first growing season, but were penetrated to different degrees after the second growing season depending on the vigor of root growth at a given location and pot type. Plants showed different growth rates at different locations. However, at a given location, there were no differences in plant growth index (PGI) or plant biomass among plants grown in different container types. Daily water use (DWU) was not influenced by container type. Results suggest that both biocontainers tested have the potential to be alternatives to plastic containers for short-term (1 year) birch production in the PIP system. However, they may not be suitable for long-term (more than 1 year) PIP production due to root penetration at the end of the second growing season.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Independently controlled irrigation plots were designed to test two container nursery irrigation regimes on oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Alice’) in both nursery and controlled greenhouse environments. The experiments were conducted in both 3.8 and 11.4 L containers. Plants were automatically irrigated by one of two soil moisture sensor-based regimes: (1) a daily water use (DWU) system that delivered the exact amount of water that had been lost in the previous 24 h and (2) an on-demand (OD) irrigation system based on a specific substrate moisture content derived from the relationship between substrate moisture and photosynthetic rate. In this system, irrigation was applied when the substrate moisture level fell below 33% container capacity, which corresponded to 90% maximum predicted photosynthetic rate. Both treatments delivered the volume of water required to return the containers to container capacity by overhead irrigation, but the DWU system was static, irrigating once per day, whereas OD was dynamic and irrigated whenever the substrate moisture reached the 33% threshold level. Gas exchange was measured at the driest point prior to the next irrigation event. Periodical growth index, water use, and final dry weight were recorded. OD used less water than DWU outdoors, reduced leaching fraction among greenhouse experiments, and had either no or a positive impact on biomass in all but one trial. For 3.8 L plants, photosynthesis and stomatal conductance were consistently greater when irrigated by the OD program. Both treatments used significantly less water than the industry standard of 2.5 cm per day. This research demonstrated that both DWU and OD are a dramatic improvement over conventional irrigation scheduling and could be adopted as conservative irrigation systems for nursery production.
Full-text · Article · Nov 2014 · Scientia Horticulturae
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: To improve nursery sustainability, nursery containers constructed of wood fiber, woven recycled plastic, keratin and coir were compared to standard high density polypropylene containers in 4 states. Containers were used for a one-year growing season. Plants were irrigated based on daily water use determined with moisture sensors. Plant growth, quality and mortality and container physical properties were measured over the growing season. Plant and container performance will be discussed in relation to water use and implications on sustainable nursery production.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Birch (Betula nigra) bare root liners were planted into two types of fiber containers (seven gallon, Kord® Fiber Grow, Western Pulp) and one plastic container (seven gallon, GL 2800, Nursery Supplies® Inc), which were used as the production pots in a pot-in-pot production system (PIP). Production pots were inserted into a GL 6900 (15 gallon) socket pot. The study was initiated in mid-June 2011 at four locations, KY, MI, MS and TX, and lasted through October 2012. Plant height, widths (Plant growth index (PGI) = (height+ width + perpendicular width)/3), and plant caliper (20 cm above ground) were measured at all locations at monthly intervals. Substrate moisture was determined with a calibrated theta probe (ML2, Dynamax Inc.) in KY with daily irrigation applied to replace 100% of daily water use (DWU). At the end of each growing season, a visual and tactile evaluation of the fiber containers was conducted to assess container strength. Birch plants were destructively harvested in October 2012. Above ground dry weight, root dry weight, and total dry weight were determined. There was no significant difference in plant height, plant dry weight, plant caliper or PGI among plants grown in different container types in MS, KY, or TX. Data from KY showed that there was no significant difference of DWU of plants grown in all three container types. At the end of the 2011 growing season fiber containers were still intact but by the end of the experiment roots had penetrated the bottom of the containers. In MS, bottom of fiber containers were severely penetrated by birch roots by October 2012 due to vigorous root growth; whereas, in KY, plant growth was less vigorous with only a few roots found penetrating the bottom of the pots.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Studies were conducted at the University of Kentucky to evaluate side wall water loss and substrate temperature of quart size alternative containers derived from paper, card board, peat, cow’s manure, rice hull or coir, bio degradable plastic, and plastic (control). An environmental chamber controlled for temperature and relative humidity was used to obtain a VPD of 2.6 k Pa. The containers were filled to their rim with saturated Fafard potting mix. Top part of each container was sealed using plastic sheet to prevent evaporation through the open surface. Five replicates of containers were moved to the chamber and hourly substrate water loss was measured. Another five replicates were used to determine light reflectance, wall temperature and substrate temperature in room temperature at 20⁰C and relative humidity 50%. Two 100 watts incandescent bulbs were installed 6 inches away from pots to provide heating for 90 minutes to warm up the substrate. After 90 minutes, radiation flux density of pot side wall was measured using a pyranometer (Licor-LI200). After measuring the radiation, the light was turned off, the temperature of pot wall was determined using an Infra-Red thermometer. Substrate temperature was obtained at one inch depth of the substrate at the center of pot and between the pot side wall and center of pot.
It was found that on an average plastic and bio-plastic containers lost 2.5 ml water whereas containers manufactured using rice hull, coir and straw containers lost 10 to 20 ml and peat, wood pulp and cow manure containers lost 25 to 30 ml in an eight hour period in the chamber. Light reflectance was lowest for black containers (20Wm-2) and it was higher for all alternative containers and it varied around 70 to 120 Wm-2 for rice, coir and straw containers. Container wall temperature was highest for plastic and bio-plastic containers (40ºC) followed by rice hull, coir and straw containers (30 ºC) and peat, wood pulp and cow manure based containers showed lowest wall temperature of around 24 ºC. Substrate temperature near to sidewall was highest for plastic and bio-plastic (28ºC), followed by all other alternative containers (22 ºC), same trend was noticed for temperature at the center of the container with plastic showing the highest (25ºC) and all alternative containers showing lower values (21ºC). Light reflectance and porous nature of container walls prevented higher substrate temperature buildup of some of the alternative containers.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Plant production facilities for perennial plug and container plants are high input systems using large quantities of water, fertilizers, chemical pesticides, plastics, and labor. The use of renewable and biodegradable inputs while growing an aesthetically pleasing and healthy plant will improve the economic, environmental, and social sustainability of current production systems. However, costs, such as poor integration of sustainable practices into established systems, increased carbon footprints, increased product shrinkage, and reduced plant health, which may be associated with sustainable production practices, have been ill defined. Our objectives are to determine the environmental and economic costs of commercial production systems using biocontainers (including greenhouse, above ground nursery, and pot-in-pot nursery production). The costs of all of the production inputs including water, fertilizers, chemical pesticides, disinfectants, and containers were collected for each system in each participating state. Labor inputs of potting, watering, applying chemicals, inspecting plants, harvesting, and cleaning pots and production area were also recorded. Use of “Green” processes based upon quantitative data will result in improved farm incomes while sustaining environmental quality by reducing the carbon, water, and chemical foot prints used in nurseries and greenhouses. Any strategy that can reduce expense and benefit the environment is a priority for the long-term sustainability of the industry.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Current best management practices recommend single irrigation to occur during early morning hours to reduce drift and evaporative loss of water for container grown nursery plants. A pot-in-pot (PIP) study was conducted at the University of Kentucky Horticulture Research Farm in Lexington, KY to evaluate optimal timing of daily cyclic irrigation in eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis ’Forest Pansy‘) growth and daily water use. Liners were grown in either 7-gallon or 15 gallon containers filled with 85% pine bark: 15% peat (vol/vol) in PIP systems in a completely randomized experiment design. Substrate moisture content was continuously monitored using EC5 (Decagon, IL) moisture sensors inserted into three representative containers per irrigation treatment. Irrigation was scheduled to replace 100% daily water use applied in three equal amounts and applied at the following times: cyclic irrigation starting at (i) 7, 8, and 9 am; (ii) 12, 1, and 2 pm; or (iii) at 5, 6,and 7 pm. Water use was approximately double in plants grown in 15-gal containers compared to 7-gal containers. The timing of cyclic irrigation impacted total and daily use in 7-gal, but not 15-gal containers. In the 7-gal containers, the least amount of water was used in the 7AM cyclic irrigation schedule. Containers required greater irrigation volumes when irrigation was scheduled at noon (19%) and at 4PM (5%) compared to the 7AM irrigation.
Plant physiological measurements as well as plant water status were collected just before the start of cyclic irrigation event and it varied on an average from about 9 μmol CO2 m‐2·s‐1 in the morning to 11 μmol CO2 m‐2·s‐1 in the noon and to 13 μmol CO2 m‐2·s‐1 in the afternoon irrespective of irrigation timing. Sap flow varied from about 23 cm hr-1 in the morning and to 54 cm hr-1 in the afternoon for plants grown under various irrigation treatments. Leaf water potential became more negative as day progresses irrespective of cyclic irrigation timing as observed right before the morning (-7 kPa), noon (-16 kPa) and afternoon irrigation (-22 kPa) events. The study highlights the water savings under sensor based cyclic irrigation and that when water is not limiting, environmental variables such as air temperature, relative humidity and solar radiation are more closely coupled to changes in plant physiological characteristics and water status.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: A laboratory exercise is presented that demonstrates the impact of seed coverings and hormones on seed dormancy and release in seeds with endogenous, physiological dormancy. The materials and methods are simple and inexpensive and can be accomplished as an on-campus laboratory or as a distance education exercise. The execution of the laboratory is rapid (≈1 hour), and the results are obtained in 2 weeks. The exercise generates an opportunity for the discussion of a complex subject that involves the interaction of two tissue types within the seed (the embryo vs. the seed coverings) and nicely illustrates their role in seed dormancy maintenance.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: This one-factor completely randomized experiment was conducted in Michigan, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Texas, in order to test plant growth and water use in containers made from material other than virgin plastic. From July 2011 to June 2012, Euonymus fortunei ‘Roemertwo’ were planted in three types of #1 (~3.8 L) containers (treatments) and evaluated. Container treatments were: 1) polyethylene PF400-SM (control); 2) Western Pulp 7X7RD (WP); and 3) Kord 07.50 Fiber Pot (Kord). From June 2012 to May 2013, Buxus x ‘Green Velvet’ were evaluated in four types of #1 containers: 1) control; 2) WP; 3) root pouch 15–20 month (RP) 4) keratin pot (KP). Substrate volumetric moisture content (SVMC) was determined by EC-5 moisture sensors in 2011, GS3 and EC-5 sensors in 2012 (Decagon Devices, Inc., Pullman, WA). Plant daily water use (DWU) was calculated as SVMC 5 minutes after irrigation minus SVMC immediately before the following irrigation period multiplied by container volume. Plants were irrigated to replace 100% DWU. For E. fortunei, in all states, plant growth and biomass were not different between treatments. A higher mortality rate in plastic than Kord and WP container was observed at the end of 2011 growing season. The DWU for WP and Kord varied by states in both years. The root zone temperature of KP was similar to control, and for WP and RP was 9% and 15% lower than control in Michigan, container temperature in other states varied. Mortality of Buxus was 0% for all states by October 2012; mortality will be evaluated in May 2013.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Biocontainers are being considered as more environmentally sustainable alternatives to plastic containers. However, the use of biocontainers may have unforeseen challenges including increased water use and poor durability in long-term nursery production settings. The objective of this research was to investigate the suitability of using biocontainers in a pot-in-pot (PNP) nursery production system. This study was conducted in Mississippi, Texas, Kentucky, and Michigan. Two types of 7-gallon fiber containers, KordFiber Grow and Western Pulp, and a 7-gallon standard plastic container were used in this study as inner pots (production pots). A plastic container was used as the in-ground socket pot. Birch (Betula nigra) bare root liners were planted in mid-June 2011 into the production pots filled with pine bark and peat (85:15, v/v). At the end of the first growing season, there was no significant difference in plant growth index and daily water use among the three container types in all four locations. Visual inspection of the biocontainers showed that the side walls and the bottom of the containers were intact. At the end of the second growing season, there was still no significant difference in plant growth index and daily water use among the three container types. However, the visual inspection of the biocontainers showed some degrees of degradation, especially the bottoms of the pots. The results suggested that the biocontainers we tested might be suitable for short-term rather than long-term PNP production.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The current study was conducted at the University of Kentucky Horticulture Research Farm in Lexington in conjunction with locations at Mississippi, Michigan, Texas, and West Virginia under the USDA–SCRI program. Buxus x Green Velvet 'Boxwood’ were planted in four types of #1 (~3.8 L) containers (treatments): 1) polyethylene PF400-SM (control) (Nursery Supplies Inc., PA); and alternative containers 2) Western Pulp 7X7RD (Western Pulp Products Co.,TX); 3) Keratin (Horticultural Research Institute, Washington, D.C.); and 4) Root PouchTM (Root Pouch Inc., OR). This one-factor completely randomized design experiment was conducted in Kentucky, Texas, Mississippi, Michigan, and West Virginia from June to October 2012. All plants were irrigated at 7 am and 7 pm to replace 100% daily water use. Two thermocouples (Type T copper-constantan thermocouple wires; Omega Engineering, CT) in each plot measuring substrate temperature were placed in the container of central growing beds at one inch below the substrate surface at one inch away from container wall facing south and at the center of container. Data were recorded using a datalogger (CR1000; Campbell Scientific) programmed to scan every 30 s and determined maxima, minima, and averages hourly. Average substrate temperature showed around 6°C to 9°C increase in black plastic containers as compared to alternative containers at one inch away from container wall and an increase of about 2°C to 4°C at the center of container during August in Kentucky. Substrate temperature was exposed to critical temperature (>37.8°C) for more than 3 hours on 15 different days in black plastic containers and about 9 days in keratin containers and none was observed for wood pulp and fabric containers during the study in Kentucky. Substrate temperature was increased by about 16°C (plastic), 14°C (keratin), 10°C (wood pulp), and 7°C (root pouch) from sun rise to midafternoon and substrate started cooling down from late afternoon with root pouch and plastic cooling the fastest, followed by keratin and wood pulp containers. Other locations observed similar trend in thermodynamics among the containers. Plastic containers exposed plant roots to rapid changes in substrate temperature than alternative containers types causing decreased plant root dry weight at harvest compared to plants grown in wood pulp. Highest substrate temperature observed in plastic was attributed to its black, non-porous and thin container walls. Porous walls of wood pulp and root pouch containers improved heat exchange and also allowed increased evaporative cooling resulting in reduced heat buildup.