Effect of Water Quality on Growth and Fertilization of Bedding Plants

in HortScience
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  • 1 Dept. of Horticulture, Louisiana State Univ., Baton Rouge, LA 70803-2120

Irrigation water quality is an important factor in ornamental plant production; however, there is little information in this area. Saline (NaCl) and alkaline (NaHCO3) water have been shown to cause general chlorosis, tip burn, and defoliation of plants. The growing medium used in crop production may be an important factor when irrigating with saline and alkaline water. Our objectives were to determine the effects of increasing concentrations of NaCl: CaCl2 and NaHCO3 in irrigation water on growth and development of spring and fall bedding plants grown in peat, peat/pine bark, and pine bark media. Plant dry weight, height, and width were significantly lower at 300 and 400 ppm NaCl: CaCl2 and NaHCO3 levels. Early visible symptoms were necrosis of leaf tips, some leaf discoloration and finally plant death in the NaCl: CaCl2 experiment. The leaves of plants in the NaHCO3 experiment became water soaked and chlorotic, and some leaf abscission occurred. The best plant growth in the NaHCO3 experiment occurred in peat and the best plant growth in the NaCl: CaCl2 experiment occurred in pine bark. Decreased uptake of K+, Ca++, and Mg++ occurred when high levels of sodium were present.

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