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Water-conserving irrigation strategies minimize overwatering, runoff
Date:11/4/2009

EAST LANSING, MIConserving water and reducing the environmental impact of runoff are two of the most important issues confronting container nursery operations. Current regulations and laws in five states limit water consumption by container nurseries, and some states also limit nutrient concentrations in runoff. Excessive runoff from container plants often results from poor irrigation efficiency; in some cases as little as 13% to 26% of overhead irrigation is retained in the container.

When runoff is not properly managed, water, fertilizers, and other agricultural chemicals can end up in surrounding water resources, with the potential for environmental contamination. Facing predictions of increased water costs, lower water availability, and increasingly stringent legislation, nursery owners have a keen interest in implementing irrigation practices that conserve water and reduce runoff without adversely affecting crop quality.

Aaron L. Warsaw, R. Thomas Fernandez, Bert M. Cregg, and Jeffrey A. Andresen of Michigan State University published a research experiment in HortScience that investigated whether irrigation scheduling based on daily water use (DWU)the combined loss of water from plant transpiration and substrate evaporationcould conserve water without negatively impacting plant growth. The researchers set out to determine the effect of scheduling irrigation according to DWU on water conservation and plant growth, determine DWU and water use efficiency (WUE) of several types of common container-grown woody ornamentals, and evaluate the effect of irrigation volume on substrate soluble salt levels.

Fernandez explained the significance of the experiment, remarking; "Applying irrigation based on plant demand or daily water use is a key concept in water conserving irrigation scheduling. However, scientific information regarding the water use of woody ornamentals is limited. Quantifying the DWU of a wide range of container-gr
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Contact: Michael W. Neff
mwneff@ashs.org
703-836-4606
American Society for Horticultural Science
Source:Eurekalert  

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