An integrated approach to developing nutrient management schemes for container-grown nursery crops

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2007: $106,562.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Region: Northeast
State: New Jersey
Project Leader:
Dr. John Dighton
Rutgers Universuty
Gladis Zinati
Rutgers, The State University

Annual Reports


  • Additional Plants: ornamentals


  • Crop Production: biological inoculants, fertigation, nutrient cycling, application rate management, tissue analysis
  • Education and Training: demonstration, display, farmer to farmer, mentoring, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, workshop, youth education
  • Soil Management: soil analysis, soil microbiology

    Proposal abstract:

    Nursery, greenhouse and sod production has increased and ranked number one among agricultural commodities in the last seven years in New Jersey. Nursery growers are under scrutiny from the environmental regulatory agencies due to excess losses of nutrients from container-grown nursery systems. Nursery stakeholders expressed the need to develop methods that improve plant production while reducing nutrient loading into runoffs. The goal of this project is to develop an integrated approach for nutrient management of container-grown nursery crops. In year one, we will test the effectiveness of inoculation of plants by naturally-occurring mycorrhizae, when grown in two container growing media and amended with three types of fertilizers, on plant growth and reduction of nutrients in leachates. Plant biomass and nutrients concentrations in plant tissues and leachates will be determined. Plant roots will be assessed for mycorrhizal inoculation. Results will be presented in a field day to at least 100 growers. In year two, during a one-day short course 50 nursery growers will receive training on techniques used for inoculating plant material with mycorrhizae and monitoring of leachates. Consequently, we will select 6 growers to test on farm sites the integrated approach using selected plant species. Samples will be collected periodically and analyzed for nutrients to verify and confirm the proposed system. Results will be demonstrated in a field day and growers will share their experience and demonstrate to their fellow growers the benefits of the integrated approach. In year three, a questionnaire will be mailed to survey 100 growers on their nutrient management activities and the impact of the conducted studies and training sessions. We anticipate 5-6 nurserymen will continue to use the integrated approach years after the project ends and improve sustainability of nursery crop production using an environmentally-friendly system.

    Performance targets from proposal:

    The primary outcome of this project will be to develop nutrient management schemes that reduce nutrient loading and improve nursery crop quality. Information gained through this project will be presented during field days, a one-day short course, newsletters, reports, and conferences.

    Milestone 1: At least 100 nursery growers will be exposed to the benefits of the integrated nutrient management approach during field days and annual nursery growers meeting.

    Milestone 2: Out of 100, 50 nursery growers will attend the one-day short course to further their understanding on the uses of fertilizers and mycorrhizae and have hands on experience on techniques used for inoculation and monitoring of leachates.

    Milestone 3: Out of 50 nursery growers, 6 will be selected to test and verify the best treatments found in year’s one study. The growers will inoculate selected plant species and amend it with commonly used fertilizer. They will monitor plant growth and leachates.

    Milestone 4 and performance target: Twelve nursery growers will implement and integrate nutrient management schemes in container nursery production practices after the third year of the project and continue to use these methods to increase sustainability of nursery production, profitability and protection of the environment. These 6 nursery growers will be the nucleus to demonstrate the practical application of mycorrhizae and exemplary stewards for their community.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.