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The root of all production

By Mary Wicks and Peter Ling

In many ways, the intricate network of plant roots serve as its control center. Thus, optimizing the root environment, including irrigation water and nutrient levels, can improve plant health and production. The controlled growing conditions of a greenhouse allows for precision management of the root zone.

In traditional crop production, where plants grown outdoors in fields, irrigation and fertilizer application are options, but there is little or no control over rainfall and soil composition and chemistry. Greenhouse producers can choose a growing media, from hydroponics to soilless substrates, that best fits the plant’s needs. Similarly, the amount and chemistry of irrigation water and nutrients can be carefully controlled. By providing conditions that optimize the function of roots, greenhouses production can improve plant health, increase yields, and reduce potential runoff of soil and nutrients.


Find out more from the experts

On Jan. 17 and 18, 2019 greenhouse growers will have the opportunity to learn how to optimize the root zone environment for improved plant production. The OSU Greenhouse Management Workshop, which is held annually, brings together experts in industry and academia to provide practical application based on the latest research. Below is an overview of topics that will be addressed.

In the fundamental session, the basics of root zone dynamics will be discussed by Chieri Kubota with Ohio State University (OSU). James Altland, USDA-ARS, will provide information on substrate options and Peter Ling, OSU, will cover how to get the most out of your fertigation systems.

Sessions on food crops and ornamentals will address root zone management for specific crops, such as leafy greens, vine crops and annuals, as well as the importance of substrate chemistry and the pH and electrical conductivity of irrigation water. Speakers in these sessions included Mark Kroggel and Uttara Samaroakoon, both with OSU.

A session on biostimulants will focus on the use of alternative beneficial materials. Brian McSpadden Gardner with Sustane Natural Fertilizer, Inc. will discuss how greenhouse professionals can get the most benefit from composts. The types and use of beneficial microbes as well as how to evaluate their effect on your operation will be discussed by Matt Krause, BioWorks, Inc

The workshop will also feature a tour of the OARDC research greenhouses on day 1 and a tour of a commercial greenhouse on day 2. New this year is the option of attending online. Presentations will be viewed via a webinar format, but virtual attendees will miss the tours, exhibitors, and networking opportunities.

For program and registration details, visit our website: http://fabe.osu.edu/greenhouse.


Mary H. Wicks and Dr. Peter Ling, Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering. Phone: 330.263.3857; 330.202.3533. E-mail: ling.23@osu.edu; wicks.14@osu.edu. This column is provided by the OSU Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, OSU Extension, Ohio Agricultural Research & Development Center, and the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences



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