Many consider tools for plant-based irrigation management methods to be the most precise way to manage irrigation in either a research or a commercial settings. Although many types of tools are available, they all measure some aspect of water movement along the soil–plant–atmosphere continuum. This article presents some of the more commonly used tools and the methods involved to properly employ them. In addition, recent literature is reviewed to provide context to the methods themselves and also to highlight each one’s specific advantages and disadvantages. Ultimately, there is no clear winner or “best” tool as all have disadvantages, either due to prohibitive cost, the amount of data output, the difficulty of data interpretation, lack of signal resolution, or lack of dynamic ability to provide decision support. Therefore, we conclude that the user should carefully weigh these varied advantages and disadvantages in the context of their production goals before deciding on a given tool for irrigation management.
Alexander Levin and Lloyd Nackley
Celina Gómez, Megha Poudel, Matias Yegros, and Paul R. Fisher
The objectives were to characterize and compare shrinkage (i.e., transplant loss) and growth of tissue-cultured blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) transplants acclimated in greenhouses or indoors under 1) different photosynthetic photon flux densities (PPFDs) (Expt. 1); or 2) spectral changes over time using broad-spectrum white (W; 400 to 700 nm) light-emitting diodes (LEDs) without or with red or far-red (FR) radiation (Expt. 2). In Expt. 1, ‘Emerald’ and ‘Snowchaser’ transplants were acclimated for 8 weeks under PPFDs of 35, 70, 105, or 140 ± 5 µmol·m‒2·s‒1 provided by W LED fixtures for 20 h·d−1. In another treatment, PPFD was increased over time by moving transplants from treatment compartments providing 70 to 140 µmol·m‒2·s‒1 at the end of week 4. Transplants were also acclimated in either a research or a commercial greenhouse (RGH or CGH, respectively). Shrinkage was unaffected by PPFD, but all transplants acclimated indoors had lower shrinkage (≤4%) than those in the greenhouse (15% and 17% in RGH and CGH, respectively), and generally produced more shoot and root biomass, regardless of PPFD. Growth responses to increasing PPFD were linear in most cases, although treatment effects after finishing were generally not significant among PPFD treatments. In Expt. 2, ‘Emerald’ transplants were acclimated for 8 weeks under constant W, W + red (WR), or W + FR (WFR) radiation, all of which provided a PPFD of 70 ± 2 μmol·m−2·s−1 for 20 h·d−1. At the end of week 4, a group of transplants from WR and WFR were moved to treatment compartments with W (WRW or WFRW, respectively) or from W to a research greenhouse (WGH), where another group of transplants were also acclimated for 8 weeks (GH). Shrinkage of transplants acclimated indoors was also low in Expt. 2, ranging from 1% to 4%. In contrast, shrinkage of transplants acclimated in GH or under WGH was 37% or 14%, respectively. Growth of indoor-acclimated transplants was generally greater than that in GH or under WGH. Although growth responses were generally similar indoors, plants acclimated under WFR had a higher root dry mass (DM) and longer roots compared with GH and WGH.
Lauren Fessler, Amy Fulcher, Liesel Schneider, Wesley C. Wright, and Heping Zhu
Nursery producers are challenged with growing a wide range of species with little to no detectable damage from insects or diseases. Growing plants that meet consumer demand for aesthetics has traditionally meant routine pesticide application using the most time-efficient method possible, an air-blast sprayer, despite its known poor pesticide application efficiency. New variable-rate spray technology allows growers to make more targeted applications and reduce off-target pesticide loss. In this study, a prototype laser-guided variable-rate sprayer was compared with a traditional air-blast sprayer. Pesticide volume, spray application characteristics, and the control of powdery mildew were evaluated over the course of two growing seasons. Spray application characteristics were assessed using water-sensitive cards (WSCs) and DepositScan software. This prototype sprayer reduced pesticide volume by an average of 54% across both years despite being tested against a low rate (<250 L⋅ha−1). In 2016, the conventional sprayer had more than double the deposit density on target WSCs among distal trees than the variable-rate sprayer; however, within proximal trees, there was no difference between the two sprayer types. In 2017, when the trees were larger, within both the distal and proximal trees, the conventional sprayer had greater deposit density on target WSCs than the variable-rate sprayer. In 2016, coverage on target WSCs was nearly 7-fold greater with the conventional treatment than with the variable-rate treatment. In 2017, when trees were larger, there was greater coverage on target WSCs in proximal trees (3.8%) compared with those in distal trees (1.0%) regardless of the sprayer type. This variable-rate spray technology provided acceptable control of powdery mildew severity on individual branches and whole trees and maintained the incidence of powdery mildew to levels comparable to that occurring among trees sprayed with a traditional air-blast sprayer. Therefore, the variable-rate spray technology has the potential to effectively control disease, dramatically reduce the pesticide footprint, and preserve natural resources such as ground and surface water, soil, and beneficial insects found within and around nurseries.
Matthew S. Lobdell
Coleman L. Etheredge and James DelPrince
Retail florists in the United States were surveyed from Oct. to Nov. 2020 to document business practices and innovative approaches to marketing, designing, and delivering flowers during Mar. to Sept. 2020 of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Slightly less than half of the responding florists (45.0%) closed operations for an average of 31 to 60 days (15.6%). City or county COVID-19 restrictions caused 34% to close their storefronts to customers. Nearly all offered no-contact delivery service. Approximately one-third of these florists used social media marketing consisting of still images and video posts, and a similar number offered no-contact shopping options. Two-thirds of the florists made no changes to the way they designed flowers (60.6%). Event-oriented stores reorganized their business models and sought daily work to replace postponed or canceled wedding orders. Three-fourths of the florists who terminated employees because of shutdowns hired or planned to rehire all terminated employees.
Dalyn McCauley, Alexander Levin, and Lloyd Nackley
This study reviews how mini-lysimeters have been used effectively to optimize irrigation control in container horticulture production. Lysimeters are devices that measure evapotranspiration (ET) from the water balance of a fixed soil volume. The primary components of lysimeter-controlled irrigation are load cell sensors, a multiplexer, a data logger, a controller, and solenoid valves. The two common mini-lysimeter systems are platform lysimeters and suspension lysimeters. In these systems, a bending-beam single-point load cell is fastened between two plates, and a container is placed directly on the top platform. Platform lysimeters are commonly used for smaller pot sizes, and suspension lysimeters have been used for large shade trees up to 2.8 m tall and weighing 225 kg. Mini-lysimeters have been used for decades to calibrate ET models and create on-demand irrigation control programs that replenish plant daily water use or maintain deficit conditions. Research has demonstrated that lysimeter-based irrigation can respond more effectively to seasonal and diurnal variations in water demand, increasing irrigation cycles when evaporative demand is high, and decreasing irrigation cycles when demand is low. A strength of these systems is that for containerized plants, such as nursery production systems, mini-lysimeters capture whole-plant water use, which presents a more holistic measure compared with soil moisture sensors or leaf moisture sensors.
Bernardita Sallato, Matthew D. Whiting, and Juan Munguia
‘WA 38’ is a new apple (Malus domestica Borkh.) cultivar, released by Washington State University (WSU) in 2017. An unknown disorder, ‘‘green spot’’ (GS), dark green halos in the epidermis, with necrotic, corky, and oxidated cortical tissue underneath the damaged epidermis, leads to unmarketable fruit and has become a threat to the adoption and profitability of ‘WA 38’, with young and mature orchards exhibiting up to 60% incidence in 2020. Given the apparent susceptibility of ‘WA 38’ to GS, this research investigated GS relation with nutrient levels in fruit. Research was carried out in 2018 and 2019 in a ‘WA 38’ apple block planted in 2013, on ‘Geneva 41’ (‘G.41’) and ‘M.9-Nic 29’ (‘M.9’) rootstocks. In both years, fruit number per tree, fruit weight, and fruit diameter were evaluated in 18 trees per treatment, from both rootstocks. From each tree, fruit were classified for presence or absence of GS, and subsequently analyzed for nutrient concentration in the peel and in the flesh, nutrient extraction, and total nutrient content, on an individual apple basis. Apples with GS had higher nitrogen (N) and magnesium (Mg) levels in the peel, regardless of year and rootstock. Apples grown on ‘G.41’ rootstock exhibited higher GS incidence and reduced crop load in both years; reduced size and fruit diameter were exhibited only in 2018. Fruit on ‘G.41’ had higher N, potassium (K), and Mg in the flesh and higher N and Mg in the peel, with lower levels of calcium (Ca) in the flesh and peel; however, only in 2018, with no differences in 2019. GS in ‘WA 38’ apples appears to be another Ca-related disorder in which excessive vigor, rootstock, and N and Mg excess are predisposing factors for its development.
Brian J. Schutte, Abdur Rashid, Israel Marquez, Erik A. Lehnhoff, and Leslie L. Beck
Seaside petunia (Calibrachoa parviflora) is a mat-forming plant species that was recently reported in fall-seeded onion (Allium cepa) in the southwestern United States. To initiate development of herbicide recommendations for seaside petunia in onion, we conducted a study to determine seaside petunia susceptibility to commonly used herbicides for broadleaf weed control after onion emergence. Our study included herbicides applied at below-label rates, which provided insights on seaside petunia responses to reductions in the amount of herbicide available for plant absorption. For herbicides with preemergence activity, our growth chamber study indicated that soil applications of flumioxazin or oxyfluorfen (0.06 and 0.25 lb/acre, respectively) prevented seaside petunia seedling emergence when applied at 0.125×, 0.25×, 0.5×, and 1.0× the labeled rates for onion. Labeled rate treatments of dimethenamid-P (0.84 lb/acre) and S-metolachlor (0.64 lb/acre) inhibited seedling emergence similar to labeled rate treatments of flumioxazin and oxyfluorfen; however, below-label rate treatments of dimethenamid-P and S-metolachlor resulted in diminished control of seaside petunia compared with the labeled rate treatments. Following labeled rate applications of dimethyl tetrachloroterephthalate [DCPA (6 lb/acre)] and pendimethalin (0.71 lb/acre), more than 50% of seaside petunia seedlings emerged compared with the nontreated control. For herbicides with postemergence activity on weeds, our greenhouse study indicated that bromoxynil at 0.37 lb/acre, flumioxazin at 0.06 lb/acre, and oxyfluorfen at 0.25 lb/acre equally reduced growth of seaside petunia plants that were small at the time of spraying (stem length, 1–2 cm). Postemergence control of seaside petunia with oxyfluorfen and flumioxazin decreased as plant size at spraying increased; however, bromoxynil effects on seaside petunia remained high as stem length at spraying increased from 5 to 12 cm. Based on the results of this study, we conclude that promising herbicide programs for seaside petunia in onion include oxyfluorfen or flumioxazin for preemergence control and bromoxynil for postemergence control. These herbicides, alone and in combination, should be evaluated for seaside petunia control and onion phytotoxicity in future field trials.
Sarah E. Dixon, Jerri L. Henry, Dean S. Volenberg, and Reid J. Smeda
The increasing adoption of dicamba-tolerant soybean (Glycine max) increases the potential exposure of wine grape (Vitis sp.) to dicamba, to which off-target injury may occur via particle drift or vapor drift. In Missouri, at one site in 2017 and at two sites in 2018, research of production vineyards focused on the effects of dicamba on hybrid ‘Vidal blanc’ grapevines. During flowering and early fruit set, bearing grapevines were exposed to low rates of dicamba delivered as a spray solution of 81 or 161 ppm or by vapor from treated soil. Grapevines were highly sensitive to dicamba, and visible symptoms extended throughout the growing season. The severity of dicamba injury (leaf cupping and feathering) was similar at two of three site-years, with greater injury related to particle drift than to vapor drift of dicamba. Early-season injury resulted in dicamba impacting the total soluble solids (TSS) content of grape berries and grape yield. At harvest during two site-years, yield reductions of up to 45% were associated with dicamba exposure at flowering. Across all site-years, no significant effects of dicamba drift were observed in the TSS content of berries during veraison in August, as measured by refractometer. However, the final TSS content of berries at harvest in September was reduced by 12% from dicamba as particle drift. At a minimum detection level of 10 ng⋅mL−1, high-performance liquid chromatography mass spectrometry identified dicamba at levels up to 33 ng⋅mL−1 in grape must over all site-years. Unexpectedly, this was up to 125 d after grapevine exposure despite low levels of visible dicamba symptomology.
Rhuanito Soranz Ferrarezi and Tzu Wei Peng
Precision agriculture involves applying artificial intelligence, computers, sensors, and automation to improve crop field productivity while monitoring environmental conditions to conserve soil, water, and other natural resources focusing on agricultural sustainability. Despite many applications in agriculture, data monitoring and recording technologies have limited use due to the price. Low-cost open-source systems, like the ones available with the Internet of things (IoT) world, can potentially be developed as a universal-fit and cloud-connected technology for multiple applications. We designed and built a basic data collecting system using a commercial standalone embedded computer with Python programming language, serial data interface (SDI)-12/analog sensor adaptor, and digital sensors to monitor soil moisture and transmit the data remotely. SDI-12 is a standard communication protocol that transfers digital sensor measurements to a data recorder. We set up a pilot study that automatically collected and uploaded the data into the Internet to allow remote data transfer and access. The system performed reliably over 1 week with potting soil under field conditions without maintenance and successfully recorded data in real-time. The volumetric water content ranged from 0.03 to 0.23 m3·m−3, dielectric permittivity from 3.3 to 18.9 (unitless), EC from 0.0 to 0.3 dS·m−1, and soil temperature from 20.7 to 44.8 °C. All the data were successfully collected and uploaded to the cloud every 20 min, allowing users to remotely monitor the data using a free online application. However, heavy rainfall and high insolation could damage the system through excessive moisture or overheating, requiring a waterproof and heavy-duty protection case. The ThingSpeak channel allows customizing to suit a user’s specific requirements or adding more features for further development, such as automated irrigation, which can improve irrigation and fertilization efficiency by applying water and fertilizers at the right time based on sensor readings.