Nitrogen Fertilization and Irrigation Frequency Affect Hydrangea Growth and Nutrient Uptake in Two Container Types

in HortScience

Plant growth, water use, photosynthetic performance, and nitrogen (N) uptake of ‘Merritt’s Supreme’ hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla) were investigated. Plants were fertilized with one of five N rates (0, 5, 10, 15, or 20 mm from NH4NO3), irrigated once or twice per day with the same total daily amount of water, and grown in either a paper biodegradable container or a traditional plastic container. Greater N rate generally increased plant growth index (PGI) in both plastic and biocontainers. Leaf and total plant dry weight (DW) increased with increasing N rate from 0 to 20 mm and stem and root DW were greatest when fertilized with 15 mm and 20 mm N. Plants fertilized with 20 mm N had the greatest leaf area and chlorophyll content in terms of SPAD reading. Container type had no influence on DW accumulation or leaf area. N concentrations (%) in leaves, roots, and the entire plant increased with increasing N rate. N concentrations in roots and in the entire plant were lower in biocontainers compared with plastic containers. Greater N rate generally increased daily water use (DWU), and biocontainers had greater DWU than plastic containers. The 20 mm N rate resulted in the highest net photosynthetic rate measured on 11 Sept. and 22 Sept. (65 and 76 days after treatment). Net photosynthetic rate (measured on 8 Oct.) and stomatal conductance (gS) (measured on 27 Aug., 22 Sept., and 8 Oct.) were lower in biocontainers compared with plastic containers. Two irrigations per day resulted in higher substrate moisture at 5-cm depth than one irrigation per day, and slightly increased PGI on 19 Aug. However, irrigation frequency did not affect photosynthetic rate, gS, or N uptake of hydrangea plants except in stems. Considering the increased water use of hydrangea plants when grown in the paper biocontainer and lower plant photosynthesis and N uptake, the tested paper biocontainer may not serve as a satisfactory sustainable alternative to traditional plastic containers.

Contributor Notes

This work was supported by the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Experiment Station and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture Hatch project MIS-249180.

We thank Oregon Hydrangea Company, Brookings, OR, and Natchez Trace Greenhouse, Kosciusko, MS, for plant material.

Mention of a trademark, proprietary product, or vendor does not constitute a guarantee or warranty of the product by Mississippi State University or the USDA and does not imply its approval to the exclusion of other products or vendors that also may be suitable.

Corresponding author. E-mail: tl665@msstate.edu.

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Article Figures

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    Plant growth indices (PGIs) of Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Merritt’s Supreme’ affected by the interaction between N rate and container type on 19 Aug. 2014 (A) and on 27 Oct. 2014 (B), or by irrigation frequency on 19 Aug. 2014 (C). Hydrangea plants were fertilized with 0, 5, 10, 15, or 20 mm N from NH4NO3, grown in plastic container or paper biocontainer, and irrigated once or twice per day with the same total daily irrigation volume. Plant growth index was calculated as the average of plant height, width 1 (widest points apart), and width 2 (perpendicular to width 1). Different lowercase letters in a figure suggest significant difference among all treatment combinations compared by Fisher’s least significant difference test at P < 0.05.

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    Effect of N rate on leaf SPAD reading (A) and leaf area (B) of Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Merritt’s Supreme’ on 27 Oct. Hydrangea plants were fertilized with 0, 5, 10, 15, or 20 mm N from NH4NO3. Irrigation frequency or container type did not affect SPAD or leaf area. Different lowercase letters in a figure suggest significant difference among N rate treatments compared by Fisher’s least significant difference test at P < 0.05.

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    Dry weights of Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Merritt’s Supreme’ in the total plant (A), leaves (B), stems (C), and roots (D) affected by N rate. Hydrangea plants were fertilized with 0, 5, 10, 15, or 20 mm N from NH4NO3. Irrigation frequency or container type did not affect dry weights in leaves, stems, roots, or the entire plant. Different lowercase letters in a figure suggest significant difference among N rate treatments compared by Fisher’s least significant difference test at P < 0.05.

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    Root length and surface area of Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Merritt’s Supreme’ affected by the interaction between N rate and container type (A), by the interaction of N rate and irrigation frequency (B), or by the main effect of N rate (C). Hydrangea plants were fertilized with 0, 5, 10, 15, or 20 mm N from NH4NO3, grown in plastic container or paper biocontainer, and irrigated once or twice per day with the same total daily irrigation volume. Different lowercase letters in a figure suggest significant difference among all treatment combinations compared by Fisher’s least significant difference test at P < 0.05.

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    Daily water use of Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Merritt’s Supreme’ affected by N rate (A) or container type (B). Hydrangea plants were fertilized with 0, 5, 10, 15, or 20 mm N from NH4NO3, grown in plastic container or paper biocontainer, and irrigated once or twice per day with the same total daily irrigation volume. Daily water use was measured using a gravimetric method by subtracting pot weight 24 h after irrigation from pot weight at container capacity using plants irrigated once per day. Different lowercase letters in a figure suggest significant difference among N rate or between container types compared by Fisher’s least significant difference test at P < 0.05.

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    Substrate moisture of Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Merritt’s Supreme’ affected by N rate (A), container type (B), or irrigation frequency (C). Hydrangea plants were fertilized with 0, 5, 10, 15, or 20 mm N from NH4NO3, grown in plastic container or paper biocontainer, and irrigated once or twice per day with the same total daily irrigation volume. Substrate moisture was measured at 5-cm depth using a soil moisture sensor. Different lowercase letters in a figure suggest significant difference compared by Fisher’s least significant difference test at P < 0.05.

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    Net photosynthetic rate of Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Merritt’s Supreme’ affected by the interaction between N rate and container type on 27 Aug. (A), by the main effect of N rate on 11 Sept. (B) and 22 Sept. (C), or by the main effects of N rate (D) and container type (E) on 8 Oct. with no interactions between main effects. Hydrangea plants were fertilized with 0, 5, 10, 15, or 20 mm N from NH4NO3, grown in plastic container or paper biocontainer, and irrigated once or twice per day with the same total daily irrigation volume. Different lowercase letters in a figure suggest significant difference among all treatment combinations compared by Fisher’s least significant difference test at P < 0.05.

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    The stomatal conductance (gS) of Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Merritt’s Supreme’ affected by N rate (AD), or by container type (EG) on different measurement dates. Hydrangea plants were fertilized with 0, 5, 10, 15, or 20 mm N from NH4NO3, grown in plastic container or paper biocontainer, and irrigated once or twice per day with the same total daily irrigation volume. Irrigation frequency did not affect gS. Different lowercase letters in a figure suggest significant difference among N rates or between container types compared by Fisher’s least significant difference test at P < 0.05.

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    Tissue N concentration of Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Merritt’s Supreme’ affected by N rate in the plant, leaves, and roots (AD), by container type in the plant (E) and roots (G), or by irrigation frequency in stems (F). Hydrangea plants were fertilized with 0, 5, 10, 15, or 20 mm N from NH4NO3, grown in plastic container or paper biocontainer, and irrigated once or twice per day with the same total daily irrigation volume. Different lowercase letters in a figure suggest significant difference among N rates, between container types, or between irrigation frequencies compared by Fisher’s least significant difference test at P < 0.05.

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