Thursday, November 29, 2012

Poinsettias raised by students in perfect condition for holidays

Shimmer Surprise poinsettias enjoy the perfect lighting conditions in the SNRAS/AFES greenhouse.

Students in the NRM 211 (introduction to applied plant science) course have something tangible to show for their efforts at the end of the semester. Right now, the SNRAS/AFES greenhouse is bursting with vibrant poinsettias just in time for the holiday season.

The plants were started from cuttings over the summer and the students have tended them since classes started in August. Poinsettias require short days, and can only handle eight to nine hours of daylight.

Professor Meriam Karlsson explained that light conditions are controlled by opening and closing blackout curtains. Poinsettias will suffer without an uninterrupted dark period.

Red and blue LED lights are used for comparison and both have been just as effective as normal greenhouse conditions, Karlsson said.

A new variety that has produced delightful results this year is the Shimmer Surprise. The naturally variegated blossoms feature red, pink and white, but are unpredictable in their patterns. “You don’t know what you’re going to get,” Karlsson said.

In addition to poinsettias, the students grew corn, beans, tomatoes and sunflowers. In the process they learned about light conditions, humidity and temperature control in the new greenhouse. “It’s amazing,” Karlsson said. “It more fun because we get good results and the plants grow faster. We have time to see results in one semester.”

The course stresses basic plant concepts and what plants in northern conditions need as far as nutrition, water, light and temperature.

About half the students are NRM majors and the rest show up with a desire to know more about plants. “Mainly they are interested in nutrition and fertilize,” Karlsson said. “And LEDs.”

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