A blog is a conduit for timely information, right? Yes, it is! But, it is also a personal communication from me (the writer) to you (the reader). So, I am going to take just a minute to “rant” about one of my pet peeves.
Having been in academia for almost 30 years now, I have deep appreciation for the intrinsic value of research and the importance of the acknowledgement of research results in the development of your production practices.
Wow, what a bunch of boxcars!
What I mean to say is that most of my research has been designed to make your job easier, your product “better” or more profitable, or your production practices safer. When I do chemical work – PGR testing – the “acknowledgement” of that research is the use of those results or recommendations on the product label.
Well, hosta is a key in one of my research pet peeves. I started working with branching compounds, including benzyladenine (BA, Configure) about 25 years ago. BA was effective, especially on hosta and Christmas cactus. And, I wasn’t the only researcher who proved that BA could fill niche in enhancing branching for a variety of ornamentals.
But BA was not EPA-labeled for those uses – not for any uses on plants! So although I could discuss my experimental results with you, the producers, I could not recommend the use of this compound in crop production.
When Fine Americas, Inc. obtained an EPA label for BA in 2007 as Configure® for use on ornamental plants, the research conducted by myself and others was “acknowledged” on that label. So, for the last eight years, I’ve been making recommendations on its use!
So let’s talk about hosta production. Production of high quality Hosta involves planting plugs or bare-root divisions in early summer (June-July) for sale the following spring, with an emphasis on bulking the plant shoots and establishing a strong root system during the long days of summer. Then after going dormant in the fall and a sufficient winter chilling period, the plants flush in the spring and really hit steady growth when we reach long days. This gives us multiple windows of opportunity for Configure applications.
Based on research results from Gary Keever at Auburn University, Paul Pilon at Perennial Solutions Consulting and my own here at Virginia Tech, we know that Configure will be most effective on actively growing plants with actively growing root systems, both of which occur best for hosta during the long, warm days of summer. We also know that multiple applications of Configure are generally more effective than single applications.
So, let’s talk about windows of opportunity. The first Configure application for hosta is at first flush of active growth after potting. This may be two to four weeks after potting, depending on your propagule. Then continue to make applications at two to three week intervals throughout the summer. Some cultivars require high rates of Configure for significant offset development, but generally with these multiple applications, you will want to use lower rates, 500 to 1000 ppm. (Yes, those rates are higher than we use on most herbaceous crops).
See Paul Pilon’s chapter on Hosta in the Configure Product Information and University Trial Results guide (p. 16-17, http://fine-americas.com/lit/usa/configure/Brochures/Configure%20University%20Trial%20Results.pdf ) for a list of responsive cultivars and application rates.
Our Configure Trials
In our own studies on spring planted hosta, we found that Hosta ‘Liberty’ was responsive to Configure (Photo 1). However, with only a single application, the rate had to be very high (6000 ppm) which caused some phytotoxicity. Multiple applications would reduce phyto and likely enhance the branching response.
Hosta sieboldiana ‘Great Expectations’ was more responsive to the lower, 3000 ppm, rate of Configure and showed little phytotoxicity at this rate (Photo 2). There was an increase in offset production with a final number about double that of control plants. The higher rate (6000 ppm Configure) gave the same results.
Hosta sieboldiana ‘Ginko Craig’ was very responsive to Configure with significantly increased branching at two weeks after treatment (WAT) with rates as low as 1000 ppm (Photo 3). Final (10 WAT) measurements indicated twice the number of offsets produced on all plants treated with Configure as compared to control plants.
Configure is a great production aid for bulking hosta. Start applications after the plants are in active growth – including good root growth – typically two to four weeks after potting depending on the growth rate of the cultivar. Make multiple applications at rates of 500 to 1000 ppm Configure at 2 to 3 week intervals until the plants just begin to cease active growth and go dormant.
Then a spring application of Configure at the same rate after the plants are actively growing (after the start of long days) will just be “icing on the cake.”