University of Florida

Young Plant Research Center

The Young Plant Research Center is a university/industry consortium that undertakes applied research.

The young plant industry is a global network that produces unrooted and rooted cuttings, seedling plugs, and tissue-cultured propagules. 2006 wholesale value was $363M in the 14 top-producing states of the U.S., including $95.5M in Florida.

We develop solutions for real industry problems related to the production, propagation, and shipping of young plant material.

The project includes collaboration by researchers and industry partners throughout the United States, and is led by Paul Fisher (University of Florida) and John Erwin (University of Minnesota).

Paul Fisher (UFL)John Erwin (UMN)

Dr. Paul Fisher (left) focuses on nutrition, water quality, and financial analysis; Dr. John Erwin (right) specializes in plant growth, flowering, and new crops.

Example Projects

Water leaching from a propogation trayLeaching and Nutrients

  • We measured leaching, water, and fertilizer use in our partner grower locations, highlighting potential problems and providing feedback on their efficiency.
  • We showed that once a cell volume of water has been leached from cells in a liner tray, there is almost no preplant charge left.
  • We are developing a model of how electrical conductivity changes in liner production through leaching, uptake by plants, and applied fertilizers.

Different limes sources used in growing mediaMedia-pH Dynamics

  • We tested un reacted "residual" lime levels in growing media from our partner companies, and showed that media with more residual lime were more resistant to a rapid drop in pH.
  • We are developing a model that predicts pH change over time with a given lime source and substrate. This has led to new soil and lime tests that help media companies manage pH.

A data logger used to measure light and temperatureFlowering and Climate

  • The University of Minnesota and other researchers have described temperature and light effects on flowering for a wide range of species grown under controlled research conditions.
  • We monitored light and temperature levels in commercial greenhouses around the U.S., and tested how those conditions affected flowering of annuals.
  • During spring production, a degree day model was fairly accurate in predicting flowering time. We are currently packaging degree day models for different crops into a computer tool to help crop scheduling.
  • Collaborators: Dr. Erik Runkle (Michigan State University) and Matt Blanchard (Michigan State University).

Measuring fungus gnat emergence from growing mediaFungus Gnat Management

  • We evaluated registered insecticides and biological control agents for fungus gnat control, in onsite trials with partners and also in a research setting.
  • Safari, Distance, and Citation are examples of consistent products with good residual control. Nematodes are also a promising low-toxicity option, but differences in efficacy were found between suppliers and batches.
  • Collaborators: Dr. Lance Osborne (Univ. of Florida), Dr. Raymond Cloyd (Kansas State University), and Dr. Alan Eaton (University of New Hampshire).

Exposing rooted cuttings to ethylene gasShipping Stress

  • We found that 1-MCP reduces ethylene sensitivity in shipping of rooted liners of lantana, an ethylene-sensitive plant, and may also be useful when shipping pre-finished (flowering) liners.
  • We also quantified heating and cooling inside standard and insulated cardboard boxes, and measured temperatures when boxes were shipped via courier.
  • Collaborators: Dr. Susan Han (Univ. of Massachusetts) and Dr. Terril Nell (Univ. of Florida).