A study was conducted to test the ability of hydrophilic polymers to retain moisture in annual bedding plant beds in addition to reducing NO3 and NH4 leaching. Petunia plants were transplanted into raised concrete benches containing a drainage pipe that allowed for excess leachate to be collected. Beds that were treated with 0 or 366 g·m–2 of hydrogel and 0 or 186 g of ai N. Watering of beds followed a strict irrigation schedule and soil moisture was monitored daily. At termination, plant dry weight was measured and analyses of plant tissue and leachate were conducted for NO3 and NH4 concentrations. Results from this study demonstrated that, under suboptimal conditions of minimal irrigation and fertilization, polymer incorporation had a significant effect on water, NH4, and NO3 retention in soils. Water leaching was decreased by 17%; NH4 retention was increased by 83%; and NO3 retention, where additional N was added, was increased by 64% due to polymer incorporation. In addition, a 47% reduction in NO3 concentration of water leachate was detected when polymer was incorporated under minimal fertilization. Growth or N levels of petunia were not significantly affected by polymer incorporation.
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