Recirculating hydroponic systems : evaluating cuttings yield and rooting ability of cold tolerant eucalyptus hybrids.
Wallis, Jacqueline Tanya.
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In South Africa, clonal forestry of Eucalyptus and its hybrids has been implemented to increase the productivity on existing forestry lands and marginal sites and to facilitate the production of desired fibre types for timber processing operations. The cold-tolerant Eucalyptus grandis x E. nitens hybrids have produced consistently high yields, and are propagated clonally with limited success via a macro-cutting system currently in use for other hybrid species. The heart of vegetative propagation operations is the clonal hedge and its management, and nutrition in particular, is an important element of any vegetative propagation programme. However, achieving and sustaining an optimum nutritional balance in macrohedges is difficult in practice and, in order to accurately predetermine the optimum plant nutrition required all year round and to ensure optimal levels of rooting, a more controllable nutrient environment is essential. Hydroponics may facilitate this control of nutrition. At the same time it may be possible to manipulate the system to determine accurately what levels of each nutrient may contribute to the highest rooting and more importantly allow forest nursery managers to maintain those levels in a practical manner. The main aims of the present work were to obtain and compare cuttings and rooting yields from hydro-ramets in different hydroponic substrates and systems and to investigate the possible roles of essential nutrients on those parameters. Modified Nutrient Film Technique (NFT), ebb-and-flow and aeroponic tables were used in this study. The former consisted of eight individual gutters, allowing for eight different substrates to be tested simultaneously. One gutter was set up as an unmodified NFT table and the other seven gutters had gravel, Leca, peat, perlite, perlite: vermiculite mix, Rockwool® and sand as substrates; all were supplied with the same nutrient solution. Three commercial clones were used throughout these trials: GN107, GN156 and NHOO. Rooting results and data from plant elemental analyses indicated that certain elements (Ca, Cu, Zn, Mn and B) appeared to play a more important role in rooting than others (N, P, K, Mg, Na and Fe). It was also found that when comparing the hydroponic systems, the substrate and / or method of irrigation affected the availability and uptake of different nutrients, which in turn affected the rooting of coppice collected from those ramets. The rooting performance of coppice from the eight different substrates tested in the NFT system was compared. Within each of the four harvests undertaken, both clone and substrate had a significant effect on the rooting performance. However, when the four harvests were compared, only harvest number/time had a significant effect on the rooting performance of the cuttings derived from the hydro-hedges . For both the ebb-and-flow and aeroponics systems (where there was no substrate), only the clone had a significant effect on the rooting performance. In addition to this, the plants from the ebb-and-flow system produced the highest number of cuttings to be placed overall (7.9 cuttings per mother plant per harvest) while those from the gravel substrate had the highest rooting percentage overall (26.9 %). When combining these two factors into a success rate, the perlite substrate rated highest (1.7 rooted cuttings per mother plant per harvest). From a cost efficiency perspective, perlite was the most cost effective substrate, as it required the least initial capital outlay to produce one million rooted clones per year from a hydroponics system (R6 533 655). The plants in the perlite substrate also produced the highest number (6 700) of rooted cuttings per year from 1 000 mother plants with a low cost per plant (R2.33 per rooted plant).
- Masters Degrees (Botany)