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Seminar: Brandan Shur: Characterization and Development of Soilless Substrate Systems for Enhanced Mother Plant Production of Strawberries in a Precision Indoor Propagation (PIP) Environment

March 18 | 9:00 am - 10:00 am

Characterization and Development of Soilless Substrate Systems for Enhanced Mother Plant Production of Strawberries in a Precision Indoor Propagation (PIP) Environment
Brandan Shur, MS Seminar
Monday, March 18, 2024, 9:00 am
(Under the direction of Dr. Brian Jackson, Chair)

Location: 121 Kilgore Hall / Hybrid
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Meeting ID: 914 5873 0777
Passcode: 558187


As the demand for local produce, particularly fresh fruits like strawberries, continues to rise, the imperative for year-round production becomes increasingly evident. Controlled environment soilless substrate systems, offers a potential solution to bridge this gap and fulfill consumer demand throughout the year. Despite advancements in controlled environment systems, both traditional field and CEA growers encounter challenges in ensuring a consistent supply of high-quality plants to meet the rapidly escalating demand. Given that strawberry propagation is predominantly vegetative, the global strawberry industry requires a substantial number of cloned plants, including bare roots and plugs, to fulfill geographical and seasonal demand. However, the current field propagation system faces various issues, including decreased plant quality after long storage, limited availability of planting material, and a high risk of pathogen transmission from nurseries to production fields. Additional factors such as escalating land and labor costs, environmental challenges, and the declining availability of soil fumigants exacerbate these hurdles. In response, an alternative approach gaining momentum is the transition to Precision Indoor Propagation (PIP) soilless substrate-based systems, offering a solution that mitigates soil-borne pathogen pressures and potentially enhances overall productivity. However, the development of soilless substrate systems for strawberry mother plant production remains largely unexplored. This thesis investigates the influence of various wood fiber products, aged pine bark, and perlite as potential amendments compared to a commercial industry standard (50% perlite: 25% peat: 25% coconut coir) to reduce the reliance on single components for strawberry mother plant production. Findings suggest that materials with higher container capacity and lower air space levels increase daughter plant numbers. Wood products emerge as suitable alternative. Additionally, the thesis examines the influence of container geometry (height and volume) and substrate air space by constructing containers out of PVC pipe and evaluating two substrates (high and low air space). Results indicate that shorter containers with a high air space substrate yield more daughter plants, while taller containers perform best with a low air space substrate. Increasing substrate volume from 2 to 3L in shorter containers increases daughter plant numbers, whereas tall containers show no effect. Lastly, the study evaluates various commercially used containers and grow bags for the fruit industry and models the hydro-physical properties of these with different substrates. Results underscore the effect of container geometry on substrate air-water profiles, necessitating different management approaches for the same substrate in different containers. This research contributes to the improvement of soilless substrate systems to enhance production and deepen our understanding of these systems altogether.


March 18
9:00 am - 10:00 am
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Rachel McLaughlin
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121 Kilgore Hall
2721 Founders Drive
Raleigh, NC 27606 United States
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