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Effect of growing media and fertilization on sugarcane flowering under artificial photoperiod

Anna L. Hale, Paul M. White, Charles L. Webber, James R. Todd
Plos One 2017 v.12 no.8 pp. -
Agricultural Research Service, NPK fertilizers, Saccharum officinarum, breeding programs, cultivars, fertilizer application, flowering, growing media, inflorescences, nitrogen, photoperiod, plant nutrition, soil fertility, starvation, sugarcane, Louisiana
The USDA-ARS Sugarcane Variety Development Program in Houma, LA aims to maximize the number of panicles available for crossing through artificial manipulation of the environment. In a three-year study, the effect of growing media, fertilizer treatment, and their interaction on sugarcane flowering (% of panicles emerged), and number of days to flowering (DTF) under an artificial photoperiod treatment were assessed. The commercially-available sugarcane cultivar, ‘HoCP 96–540’ was planted in 2.8-L pots and subjected to the standard local photoperiod treatment. The cultivar was planted in four growing media (RediEarth Seedling and Germination Mix, Fafard, Metro-Mix®902, and Metro-Mix®900) and subjected to three different fertilizer applications. In the control treatment, fertilizer application was stopped prior to the commencement of the photoperiod treatment as practiced in some sugarcane breeding programs. The continuous treatment consisted of an application of a 10 ml solution of a NPK three times a week between June and October. The partial treatment consisted of applications of the same NPK solution applied post-initiation between September and October. Nitrogen starvation prior to the commencement of the photoperiod treatment is generally accepted to improve flower initiation; thus the standard practice is to cease nitrogen application two weeks prior to beginning a photoperiod regime. The growing media used in this study did not have a significant effect on days to flowering or percent panicle emergence. In our study, the control fertilizer treatment showed a flowering percentage across all growing media types of 21.2% less than a continuous fertilization regime. Furthermore, a significant trend was observed between fertilization treatments and days to flowering, with the continuous treatment producing panicles, on average across growing media, four days earlier than the control treatment, and six days earlier than the partial treatment. Evidence across this three-year experiment indicates that we should consider modifying plant nutrition management as soil fertility was found to be inadequate.