One of the truly niche fits for Configure is the production of Echinacea. Configure is a benzyladenine (6-BA) product that Fine Americas, Inc. introduced to the market in 2008 to enhance branching. Since then it has become a regular tool used by many Echinacea producers to improve the basal branching and pot fill of this popular crop. Several of the grower factsheets for production of new Echinacea cultivars now include Configure recommendations.
Typically one treatment with 300 to 600 ppm Configure doubles the number of basal branches (Photo 1). Furthermore, Configure actually increases the capacity for branching in these plants. In other words, over the production period, plants not treated with Configure typically do not develop as many basal branches as those treated with Configure. The untreated controls don’t “catch up” to the treated ones. So let’s talk about how to optimize its use on Echinacea.
Optimizing Configure Use on Echinacea
In our early work, we applied Configure to plants after transplanting to their finish container. At 300 to 600 ppm spray applications, Configure applied about two weeks after potting increased basal branching of several Echinacea cultivars (Table 1). The older seed-propagated cultivars, White Swan, Magnus, Doubledecker and Ruby Star, were more responsive than the newer selections, Fragrant Angel and Merlot, or the interspecific hybrid, Tiki Torch, which exhibit stronger apical dominance. Although branching of ‘Harvest Moon’ is very responsive, it also exhibits strong dominance of the flowering stalk (Photo 2).
Table 1. Echinacea cultivars treated with a single foliar spray of 600 ppm Configure showed increased basal branching relative to untreated controls at four weeks after treatment.
|Number of basal branches|
|Echinacea cultivars||Control||Configure (600 ppm)|
*Significantly different from Control, paired t-test, p<0.05.
However, our research indicates that earlier treatment results in earlier pot fill. Echinacea ‘White Swan’ plants treated with 600 ppm Configure on the day of potting or one week after potting had more basal branches and more complete pot fill than untreated plants at four weeks after potting (Photo 3). In fact, these plants, grown in quart pots, were already salable.
Furthermore, applying Configure in the liner flat and again within a week after potting resulted in a greater number of branches for a variety of herbaceous perennial crops, including Echinacea. Make sure that the Echinacea liners are actively growing when you apply the Configure spray. Unless you have information on a sensitive cultivar, we recommend using 600 ppm Configure spray applications. We have seen some spotting and leaf crinkling in a few applications, not consistent with cultivar, but these have not been evident on finished plants. If that rate worries you, 300 ppm Configure applied twice has been just as effective as 600 ppm for many cultivars. We strongly recommend two weeks between Configure applications to avoid phytotoxicity issues. For summer production, additional applications can be made through the bulking period, again at two week intervals.
Plants should ALWAYS be treated with PGRs under low stress conditions, but products like Configure are absorbed best under low drying conditions, e.g., early or late in the day, cloudy days, or under high humidity. Be consistent! Fast drying conditions reduce uptake and efficacy which may encourage you to apply higher rates, which may in turn be excessive under long drying conditions. Do not irrigate overhead within four hours of Configure application.
Key Points for Applying Configure to Echinacea
- Make the first application when liners have broken dormancy and are actively growing.
- Liners should have 2 to 4 leaves at the time of spray applications.
- Repeat application within one week after potting but at least two weeks after the first application.
- Use the recommended spray application volume (1 gallon per 200 square feet) to thoroughly wet leaves.
- Good coverage is critical since Configure is primarily taken up by the leaves and, for Echinacea, the buds in the basal crown as well.
- Apply Configure foliar sprays when plants are under low stress conditions.
- Add a good surfactant to your spray solution.
- The Configure label permits but does not require additional surfactants. While we have found excellent results without it, others have successfully used Capsil with Configure. Use a surfactant labeled for your crop and follow label directions.
- Keep records of your applications and results.
- Always keep notes to aid in improving your results with subsequent crops. Include notes on the environmental conditions as they affect drying time.
In summary, Configure has a true niche in the production of Echinacea by improving basal branching, which improves plant appearance and quality and provides more rapid pot fill.