What’s the Latest in Floriculture Research? Find Out Here


The Floriculture Research Alliance is a coalition of researchers that collaborate across universities and organizations on applied research to benefit the floriculture industry. its mission is to partner with industry stakeholders to develop science-based solutions to sustainability issues for floriculture.

Research through the alliance covers a wide range of areas of importance to the floriculture industry. Here’s a closer look at a few of the group’s ongoing projects, most of which are being led by students and likely future industry leaders (learn more about the Alliance here):

Greenhouse Sensors for Improved Climate Control: Daniel Crawford, an Agricultural and Biological Engineering B.S. student at the University of Florida (UF), is researching climate sensors for propagation greenhouses. Production of seedlings, cuttings, and tissue culture transplants requires precise control of light, temperature, humidity, and mist irrigation. However, many greenhouses have few sensors inside their greenhouses and rely on a simple time clock and grower experience for mist timing. Commercially available sensors such as infra-red sensors for leaf temperature are being connected to a greenhouse control system at UF, to provide guidelines to growers on what sensors can be helpful. Climate data will also be used in a model of plant temperature and water loss to train growers on irrigation and climate control.

Heavy Metal Contamination in Hemp: Harrison Meekins, a M.S in Environmental Horticulture, and Austin Erickson, a B.S in Chemistry, are researching heavy metal uptake and contamination in hemp. Heavy metals are heavily regulated by the EPA as a contaminant and pose a significant threat to hemp growers because of the crop’s tendency to accumulate heavy metals. Meekins and Erickson are working to develop methods that growers can use to determine the presence of heavy metals in their crops accurately and reliably. One method that they are working on is developing a bioassay that can be used to track the uptake of heavy metals into plant tissue. Additionally, they are comparing different soil testing methods by their ability to extract and detect the presence of heavy metals in growing media. This will provide hemp growers with more knowledge to detect and combat heavy metal contamination to their plants.

Light Carts as a Research Tool for Optimizing the Climate for Indoor Vertical Farming Propagation: Sofia Gomez (Laboratory technician), Peyton Beck, and Mario Molina (Agricultural and Biological Engineering B.S. students) are developing a third-generation automated environmental control system (light cart) for growing transplants to conduct research, modeling how factors such as vapor pressure deficit (VPD) affect leaf temperature and water loss during propagation. Vertical farming offers the ability to manipulate the propagation climate to optimize the growing environment of hard-to-root plants. However, this comes with an increased cost for growers that needs to be offset by reducing the propagation time and improving the quality of transplants compared to other propagation methods. The use of light carts as a research tool will enable to conduct several projects, modeling factors such as VPD, that play a key role on water loss of unrooted plats with the aim of optimizing the climate for indoor vertical farming propagation.

Refining Daily Light Integral Recommendations for Indoor Seedling Production: Annika Kohler is a Research Technician at Michigan State University and is investigating the daily light integral (DLI) for indoor seedling production on common bedding plants such as dianthus, geranium, petunia, salvia, and snapdragon. Previous research has shown that a moderate DLI is sufficient to produce young plants indoors. However, technology and production practices continue to advance, including better light sources to maximize plant growth and increasing interest in utilizing LED lighting for indoor young plant production. Kohler is evaluating effects of DLI on seedling production and subsequent performance after transplant to determine positive and negative attributes that can affect a grower’s schedule, such as flowering time and plant size.

Ozone and Non-thermal Plasma Technology for Water Treatment in Hydroponics: Dharti Thakulla, a research associate at the University of Florida and Ryan Fraser, a senior undergraduate researcher, are researching the implementation of ozone and non-thermal plasma technology for water treatment. Microbial contamination of the nutrient solution is a key challenge faced by hydroponic growers using recirculating systems. Ozone and non-thermal plasma technologies have been reported to aid in microbial sanitation and plant yield. However, it is important to consider and establish the correct method, dosage, and frequency of incorporating these technologies into hydroponic systems to avoid unwanted effect on plant growth or development. Through this project, they aim to study the physio-chemical properties of ozone and plasma activated water and their effects on crop yield, sanitation, oxygen stability, and fertilizer interactions for hydroponic production.

Fertilizer Rates During Production and Consumer Phases of Compact Container Vegetables: Daniela Perez Lugones and Jansen Gedwed, both M.S. students in Environmental Horticulture at the University of Florida, are researching different rates of fertilizer, placement, and forms during production of containerized compact tomatoes (‘Siam’) and peppers (‘Basket of Fire’). Optimizing placement and fertilizer type (water soluble and controlled release) will allow growers and consumers to better manage inputs for higher nutrient uptake efficiency in plants. As well as placement and type, reducing and optimizing the amount of nitrogen provided up until the point of sale, or during the production phase, can cut costs by providing growers with increased production space, reducing fertilizer use, and minimizing shrinkage during shipping. Both growers and consumers could benefit from fertilization protocols that minimize fertilizer use while still producing compact, yet high-yielding container vegetables.

Keeping Nutrients in Balance in Recirculating Nutrient Solutions: Fernanda Trientini is a Ph.D. student at the University of Florida studying mass and charge balance of recirculating nutrient solutions. Recirculating nutrient solutions are hard to manage due to multiple factors affecting the system concomitantly. Many growers use a standard nutrient solution for reservoir filling and replenishment without considering the effects of factors such as water quality, water treatment, solution pH, and acid-injection type. Trientini’s project aims to develop a mass balance model and easy-to-use decision-support tool that can customize solutions according to grower conditions to reduce fertilizer and water costs and the environmental impact of nutrient solution drainage.

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