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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Wooster, Ohio » Research » Research Project #438340

Research Project: Sustainable Production and Pest Management Practices for Nursery, Greenhouse, and Protected Culture Crops

Location: Wooster, Ohio

Project Number: 5082-21000-001-00-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: May 20, 2020
End Date: May 19, 2025

Objective:
1: Develop growth models integrating light, temperature, carbon dioxide, and other environmental factors into decision-support software tools to reduce energy costs or increase yield and quality of ornamental and edible crops grown under controlled environment. 1a: Model and validate photosynthetic responses to light, CO2, and temperature variables in controlled environments. 1b: Quantify the effects of sub-ambient CO2 concentrations on growth rate, carbon allocation, and flowering. 1c: Model energy consumption, energy cost and carbon footprint of controlled environments. 1d: Develop new measurement systems and mobile sensor platforms in order to model and optimize natural and supplemental light sources in controlled environments. 1e: Deliver decision support tools informed by the models from sub-objectives 1a–1d. 1f: Optimize control algorithms for light, CO2, temperature and other environmental parameters in controlled environments. 2: Develop nutritional and substrate amendment guidelines that improve crop quality and yield or reduce environmental impacts of food and ornamental plants grown in protected horticulture. 2a: Develop application guidelines for silicon (Si) fertilization to reduce abiotic and biotic crop stress. 2b: Evaluate nutrient uptake protein concentration and activity of crops grown under environmental or nutritional stress. 3: Develop new hydroponic and container-culture technologies that improve substrate chemical, physical, or biological properties and reduce nutritional, water, and agrichemical inputs. 3a: Engineer, model and evaluate soilless substrates components, mixtures, and subsequent stratification to readily deliver water and reduce agrichemical leaching. 3b: Identify optimal fertilizer placement to maximize plant nutrient uptake. 3c: Develop a substrate stratification method to limit fungus gnat populations on the substrate surface. 3d: Develop a substrate stratification method that utilizes a chemical or physical amendment to the container substrate bottom to reduce nutrient leaching. 3e: Monitor, manage, or treat the quantity or quality of irrigation water & return flow to conserve water, mitigate agrichemicals, & minimize adverse impacts on the crop or environment. 4: Identify alternative control agents and develop and/or improve methods and strategies for managing pests (insects, other arthropods, and weeds) in horticultural (food and ornamental) crops through improved knowledge of pest biology, ecology, & behavior in order to reduce pesticide usage. 4a: Determine the influence of cultural management practices on herbicide longevity in containerized nursery crops. 4b: Characterize the impact of abiotic stressors on host tree-ambrosia beetle-fungal interactions & implement tactics to monitor and improve tree health. 4c: Characterize the flea beetle complex damaging ornamental nursery plants & row crops in Ohio; develop monitoring techniques, determine seasonal activity, & develop control tactics for damaging flea beetles. 4d: Optimize biological & chemical tactics for controlling insect pests affecting the production of food and ornamental crops grown in controlled environments.

Approach:
Ornamental, nursery, and protected culture crops represent about one-fourth of the farm gate value of all specialty crops, and about 15% of the total value of U.S. crop production (USDA NASS Horticultural Crop Census 2014). Production value of nursery and greenhouse crops was estimated at $19 billion in 2013 (USDA NASS Horticultural Crop Census 2014). This project brings together the expertise of USDA-ARS research scientists with cooperators at other universities to focus on ornamental, nursery, and protected culture research. The project is a science-based, outcome-driven, economically motivated program that is already assisting growers in improving the quality of their food and ornamental crops. This project will continue to further our knowledge base in protected culture crops by: 1) integrating light, temperature, carbon dioxide, and other environmental parameters into growth models that enhance decision support in greenhouses and controlled environments, 2) continue developing silicon and other substrate amendments to enhance crop quality and mitigate biotic and abiotic stress, 3) engineering substrates to improve nutrient and water use efficiency, and 4) developing novel management strategies for insects and weeds that integrate knowledge of pest biology with cultural practices and management tools. This project integrates the mission and expertise of the Application Technology Research Unit with other researchers in disciplines critical to the overall success of the project.