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Hort 1471 - Greenhouse Crops I

Introduction: Group three consists of Jason Wrixon, Katherine Job, Melissa Redmon and Laura Vanderplas. We produced Cyclamen Persicum Mini Winter White as our production crop. Cyclamen are less popular but still very attractive perennials. This plant can be used in a variety of applications such as potted flowers, garden ornamentals, and can be sometimes found as a cut flower. In terms of growth habit, the plant grows into a corm from seed before it develops a mounded habit with oval leaves and a variety of different colors that include; green, silver, and white. The leaf petiole and flower shape can reach a length of up to 8 inches long. The flower itself differs in scents and have colours are white, pink, salmon red or maroon. The hybrids are not excessively fragrant. Cyclamen persicum is commonly referred to as just "Cyclamen" but other names can include florists cyclamen, Persian violet, and alpine violet. This perennial originated in central Europe and the eastern Mediterranean (Widmer??). This perennial has many requirements to be considered such as timing and scheduling. Seeds are grown from June to November and flower the December of the next year cycle. This crop is has a variety of pests and diseases it is susceptible to that target all parts of the plant. These problems can be avoided by using proper cultural practices and plant management techniques . With the recession, 2010 saw a small drop to 1.8 million potted Cyclamen produced in Canada, 1.6 million in Ontario (Mailvaganam, 2010). However, the current 2011 winter season is continuing to see demand for Cyclamen in the wholesale and retail consumer sectors (Harrison, 2011). Retailing at the Niagara College Greenhouse for $3.99 to $4.99 and blooming for up to 6 weeks indoors, Cyclamen offer excellent value to the end consumer in this tight economy (Verges & Andre, 2008). The product quality is determined by the number, length, vigor and size of the blooms as well as the quality and size of the foliage/canopy and is established entirely by the grower (Grimm, 2011). In a small retail greenhouse such as the one at Niagara College, Cyclamen are primarily sold in 4" pots with a small number of 6" pots produced for combination planters and research purposes. One 200 style plug tray contains enough plant material to supply each of these demands, occupying approximately one bench for 8 weeks until flowering, then retail space until sold. Input costs can be very expensive for Cyclamen, each seed costs 18 to 25 cents and takes 6 weeks to germinate before production even begins and then spends 8 to 9 weeks in the greenhouse (Grimm, 2011). But as an off season crop, and preferring cooler temperatures, Cyclamen allows growers to utilize all their greenhouse space at less peak times of the year (Thomas, 2004). Cyclamen is a profitable crop as long as shrinkage of no more than 3% is maintained (Sawaya, 2010), a target which we were able to meet with a shrinkage rate of 2.78% (VanderPlas, 2011) Medium to large wholesale growers are a significant sector of the industry and are very dynamic, aggressive and technologically advanced. They service buyers such as home improvement, discount department and supermarket chains many of which have changed their purchasing patterns to now focus only on key holiday sales (Grimm 2011, OMAFRA 2003). Consolidation of smaller producers or strategic alliances all areas of the supply industry:

seed and plant breeding, pots/containers, biological and fertilizer inputs has resulted in less competition and higher pricing (OMAFRA, 2003). However, unlike the primary Christmas crop, Poinsettias, Cyclamen can be made available throughout the winter season and are not marketed to just one holiday (Sawaya 2010, Thomas 2004). As you will see later in this report, a retail greenhouse such as the one at Niagara College can offer the same Cyclamen product to their customers as the large box stores at a lower price and similar quality for a longer period of time by using watering practices to control flowering and reduce input costs associated with irrigation, fertilization, pest control (Job 2011, VanderPlas 2011)

LEFT: 4" Potted Cyclamen produced by Jeffery's Greenhouses for Home Depot RIGHT: 4" Potted Cyclamen produced by Group 3 for Niagara College

Production - Schedule Sept 26 - transplanted plugs into 4 pots Oct 4 - 1st roots observed Oct 6 - 1st fertilizer given Oct 9 - (week of) alternated water and fertilizer every other day Oct 13 - 1st roots observed at bottom of pot Oct 23 - spaced pots slightly to prevent crowding, improve air circulation Oct 25 - eC, pH measurements observed and recorded Oct 27 - visit and interview to Albert Grimm at Jefferys Greenhouses Nov 4 - different watering techniques begin on 3 flats of 12 pots Nov 7 - watering / fertigation cycle continues for 2 weeks until flowers observed Nov 21 - (week of) additional water needed by dense canopies and many flower buds, now watering twice per day every single day Nov 22 - first 4 flowers observed Nov 25 - flowering; Nov 28 - flowering; Dec 2 - flowering

Production - Watering & Cultural Practices: Fertigation requirements of this crop during vegetative bulking were carried out by hand irrigation practices. This allowed for micromanagement of moisture levels and for each specimen to receive attention in regards to the development and conditions. Cyclamen requires regular moisture during vegetative growth stages, but in minimalist applications that allow for root expansion to occur in a well oxygenated root-zone (Grimm, 2010). Typical recommendations state saturating media to a wet moisture level (5), then allowing plants to dry to a medium level (2) before providing any additional fertigation (Syngenta, 2010). Through discussions with noted grower of Cyclamen crops Albert Grimm it was made clear that plants must be allowed to maintain a dominantly dry media and moisture should be applied sparingly to maintain the highest oxygen presence in the root-zone possible. This was achieved through smaller more regular water/solution applications. A large part of the growing period for this crop took place during low-light conditions. To minimize the impact of this, a higher concentration fertilizer was used in smaller/less frequent doses. The result of this was continued feeding and growth without plants sitting in any unnecessary moisture that would be slow in uptake during low light. In cases where higher light levels were experienced, lower soluble salt concentration was maintained across more regular applications. This crop was managed from the plug stage onward; transplant into finishing containers occurred when 4-6 leaves were visible. When transplanting, care must be taken to keep the corm sitting above the surface of the soil so that it does not sink when the plugs are watered in. Cyclamen varieties are developed to grow adequately in different sized finishing containers. The variety used in this experiment (Mid-Winter White) is optimally suited to 4 containers. The use of this size allows the chosen variety to fill the container fully by finishing providing an even, non-stretched, aesthetically pleasing specimen for sale (Piedrahita, 2011). Larger containers than required will result in plants stretching to fill the excess space and an ungainly appearance that is not desirable for sale. Once transplanted the specimen must be allowed to recuperate from any trauma experienced, this usually takes about a week. As soon as roots could be seen to break from the transplanted plug into the larger root zone the first nutrient application was provided. This crop originates from the mountains of Madagascar where nutrient availability is low (Grimm, 2010). From this fact it could be determined that fertigation concentration levels should be maintained at low levels (0.5 1.0 ms/cm) to avoid burning sensitive roots and stunting development or creating an uneven canopy (Syngenta, 2010). Grower talks allowed for Mr. Grimm to provide more detailed insight into this; The eC of this crop should be managed closely, at first it must be maintained at low levels, however as the plant becomes established increasing the concentration gradually to an eventual 2.0 2.5 ms/cm is beneficial to sustained optimal growth patterns. This plant prefers slightly acid conditions and optimal pH conditions rest at 5.8. Floral initiation should ideally occur when 10-12 leaves are present and well shingled. This will give the plant a good eventual balance between the 5-6 flower buds ideally allowed to set and the green matter. Irrigation/Fertigation was completed through hand watering processes as previously mentioned, bottom-feed systems are ideal for this crop however due to their ability to minimize surface moisture. This reduction of surface moisture is an effective avoidance technique for diseases such as botrytis. Initially applications were carried out as needed, as the crop developed so to do a need for daily irrigation. This allowed for moisture to be gradually layered in regularly in a

way that allowed for unhindered uptake of water/nutrients by roots without unneeded stress. This tedious management allows for the avoidance of many common infestations. This crop is being grown during a time of year with gradually diminishing light levels and cooling temperatures. Based on this a higher concentration eC should be maintained across fewer feedings in order to avoid both oxygen depletion in the root-zone and a decline in growth rate. Container grown cyclamen crops are susceptible to corm and root problems such as Fusarium and Erwinia careful management of the oxygen levels with proper watering practices provided an excellent means of avoidance. Calcium is an element that this crop critically requires; it should be applied in good supply (100 ppm) as it is used abundantly by this crop in order to provide strong turgid cells that will expand. This expansion and maintained turgidity of cell walls and subsequently; canopy, is important for the appearance of finished product. A desired specimen will have a dense basal corm-oriented clump of well shingled leaves that are tough and resilient. Growth will want to be controlled by managing nitrogen levels (Verges & Andre, 2008). This crop was grown pot tight, spacing was not required to avoid leaves touching as this specimen adequately filled out a 4 container without exceeding its growing area to the point of infringing on neighbouring plants . Spacing would become necessary to avoid excess competition for light in situations where leaves begin to touch. Temperature is a big environmental management tool in this crop. During production this variable could not be controlled, however the impact of ambient temperatures as it were was observed. During establishment and bulking, temperatures in the low twenty degree Celsius range provide a comfortable environment for plant development. For finishing this temperature would optimally be reduced to between 16 and 18 degrees (Syngenta, 2010). Warmer temperatures can result in delayed floral initiation and reduced bud count. The impacts of this were able to be seen in the produced crop. Conditions were consistently too warm for the production of this crop. The negative impacts of this were minimized through water management.

Figure 1. Here the temperature data over the course of crop production can be seen. The daily averages began acceptable for the production of the crop in the low 20 degree Celsius range. As the crop progressed toward maturity, a cooler temperature (15 16 degrees Celsius) would have been desirable for optimal finishing; in the case of this environment the temperature was too high at these later stages which would have delayed/reduced bud set.

Plant Vigor - Health, Diseases, Insects Working with the cyclamen has been a challenge; the cultural requirements of this crop are very specific if wishing to avoid disease and other pest problems. The decision to use overhead instead of the recommended, and less labour intensive drip system was one made by the group in order to be more hands on, and in tune with the needs of our crop; rather than running on a timed watering schedule it allowed for water to administered only as needed. The reason it is suggested drip irrigation instead of overhead irrigation is to avoid Gray mold, Gloeosporium leaf spot, Phyllosticta leaf spot, Septoria leaf spot, and foliar nematodes, all problems that stem from prolonged leaf wetness and too wet soil conditions. . For this reason it was imperative that the crop was watered early in the day to allow for the corm and leaves to dry properly before night fall. Soil moisture levels were also closely monitored, as excess moisture in the soil can lead to Fusarium wilt, Root rots, Crown rots, Black root rot, and many other pathogens. A daily calendar was utilized by the group in order to keep everyone informed as to the care that the plant had received on any given day. This allowed for better management of water and fertilization. Of the common greenhouse pests associated with this crop (shore flies, fungus gnats, thrips, aphids, cyclamen mite, two spotted spider mite and white fly) the crop only experienced one: thrips. So far only one plant is showing any damage from this pest. The rest of the crop has been monitored for thrips using a method from Steve Dreistadts book: Integrated Pest Management for Floriculture and Nurseries, by blowing on the flower gently to try and coax the thrips from their protective hiding spots, while gently tapping on the flower stocks in an attempt to dislodge them for counting, none were seen using this method, but this issue will continue to be monitored for. It is also important to note that the trip damaged plant is also suffering from oedema, which may account for it being more susceptible than the rest of the crop to thrips and other pests, due to plant stress. Location was an initial concern for this crop, as it is growing next to the parent tropical bench, which is known to be harbouring fungus gnat and shore fly populations (as determined by sticky card, and soil inspection of that area). These two pests are carriers of disease for cyclamen, with fungus gnats being a vector of Fusarium, and shore flies of Erwinia, so this avoidance was vital in producing a healthy crop. This crop was consciously run at a dryer moisture level for the purpose of plant growth control, as recommended by Albert Grimm, an extra benefit of this was fungus gnat and shore fly avoidance, as both species thrive in a moist environment,with no larvae of either species being observed while scouting. Reflection: The main problems encountered while dealing with this crop was the lack of environmental control, to combat this there were extra stringent tactics used on the factors that could be controlled. The biggest control factor that was available for use was water control, though this was not always easy. With a smaller crop it is not easy to maintain an even moisture level throughout due to lack of rhythm when watering and dry out along the edges. As well the slightly different canopy coverage throughout the crop shed more of less water, leaving some pots dry while others were properly moistened. To help maintain a more even level of moisture pots were rearranged by canopy coverage, allowing for an extra pass of water to be done over

the thicker canopied plants. Meeting with Albert Grimm and being given insight into how a seasoned professional cares for this crop greatly helped in the understanding of the particular needs of this crop, and was a great value to this project. Through this project it was learned that there are many different factors to be manipulated and tools available for producing a healthy crop that is on schedule, and that all of those factors and tools must work together if it is to be successful.

-References: Grimm, A., (2010). Jeffreys Greenhouses Job Training: Introduction to Cyclamen Grimm, A. (2011, October 27). Jeffreys Greenhouses Tour and Personal Interview Harrison, D. (2011, January). The hot winter colours in office plants. Greenhouse Canada, newsletter Mailvaganam, S. Statistics Canada, OMAFRA. (2010). Greenhouse flower and plant production by type and total value, ontario and canada, 2008 to 2010 (22-202-X). Guelph, ON: ServiceOntario Publications. OMAFRA, (2003). The ontario greenhouse floriculture industry "fact sheet". Guelph, ON: ServiceOntario Publications. Piedrahita, O., (2011). Personal Communication: Niagara Research Cyclamen Cultivar and Transplant Information Sawaya, M. (2010, October 31). Many strong performers in ontario cyclamen trials. Greenhouse Canada, 2010(08) Syngenta Flowers. (2010, January 13). Cyclamen. Retrieved 09 29, 2011, from http://www.syngentaflowers.com/ country/us/en/seeds/GrowingGuidelinesLib/Cyclamen.pdf Thomas, P. A. (2004). Cyclamen production. Presented to Canadian greenhouse conference, Mississauga, ON. Verges, J & Andre, I. (2008, November 15). Cyclamen: Advice for easy growing. GrowerTalks (Culture Notes)