SUPERABSORBENT POLYMER-AMENDED MEDIA FOR CONTAINER-GROWN WOODY ORNAMENTAL CROPS

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  • 1 Department of Environmental Horticulture, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611

Rooted cuttings of Photinia X fraseri and Podocarpus macrophyllus were grown in Metro-mix 500 amended with 0.0, 0.25, 0.50, 0.75, or 1.0% (w/w) Stockosorb 300, a K-based superabsorbent polymer. All 3-liter containers were irrigated with 500 ml of 100, 200, 300, or 400 ppm 20N-8.7P-16.72K Peters fertilizer solution once every 3, 6, 9, or 12 days, respectively. In comparison with the unamended media, P. X fraseri had equal or better growth (shoot and root fresh and dry weights, increased height, and branch and leaf numbers) with 3, 6, and 9 day irrigation in all but the 1 % amended medium. Growth of P. macrophyllus was not noticeably affected by the polymer amendment. This is not unexpected since P. X fraseri is a broad-leaf plant while P. macrophyllus is a slow growing, narrow-leaf conifer. Nitrogen, P, and K tissue levels for Photinia and Podocarpus decreased for the 12 day irrigation treatment regardless of amendment rate. Except for Fe, which was highest at nine day irrigation intervals, micronutrients remained more or less constant in both species. The amended media had a greater water holding capacity at termination of the project (144 and 192 days for Photinia and Podocarpus, respectively) than at the start. Thus, K-based superabsorbents may be used successfully to reduce irrigation frequency.

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