681 Controlling Stress in Container-grown Plants

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  • 1 Dept. of Horticulture, Univ. of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40546

The controlled water table irrigation system (CWT) consists of a capillary mat placed on a level bench so one side extends over the edge of the bench into a trough containing a nutrient solution maintained at a controlled distance below the bench. The nutrient solution is drawn by capillarity up to and over the bench surface. As plants use the nutrient solution or as water evaporates from the media, it is replaced from the trough. The automatic system maintains a constant air/water ratio in the growing media. Study 1: Geraniums were grown in 15-cm pots at 0, 2, and 4 cm CWT. Geraniums at 0 and 2 cm CWT had the greatest leaf area and dry weight. Plants at 0 and 2 cm CWT were more than 25% greater at 4 cm CWT. The roots of plants at 0 cm CWT were concentrated at 2 to 4 cm above the bottom of the container; whereas roots at 2 cm CWT uniformly extended from the center to the bottom. Study 2: Water potential in a coarse and fine textured media was determined at the bottom, middle and top of the container at 0, 2, and 4 cm CWT every 2.5 h during the light period. Water potential was about the same in each media within each CWT treatment. At the container bottom at 0 CWT water potential was 0; whereas the water potential at 2 and 4 CWT was lower. The water potential from top to bottom decreased slightly about mid afternoon on a sunny day when water demand was the greatest. The CWT system is potentially a commercially adaptable irrigation system for container crops. It also is a cheap, reliable tool for studying water stress on the crop growth and quality.

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