Plant Canopy Affects Sprinkler Irrigation Application Efficiency of Container-grown Ornamentals

in HortScience
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  • 1 Mid-Florida Research and Education Center, IFAS, University of Florida, 2725 S. Binion Road, Apopka, FL 32703
  • | 2 Department of Environmental Horticulture, IFAS, University of Florida, 2517 Fifield Hall, P.O. Box 110670, Gainesville, FL 32611

Marketable size plants of sweet viburnum (Viburnum odoratissimum Ker-Gawl.), waxleaf ligustrum (Ligustrum japonicum Thunb.), and azalea (Rhododendron spp. L. `Southern Charm') grown in 11.4-L containers were irrigated with overhead impact sprinklers at container spacings ranging from 0 to 51 cm apart. Water reaching the substrate surface was quantified and the percentage of that applied calculated as percent capture (% capture). Percent capture is defined as the percentage of water falling above the plant within a projected vertical cylinder of a container that reaches the substrate surface. For all species, % capture increased linearly with the decline in adjacent canopy interaction, which results from canopies extending beyond the diameter of a container. Increases in total leaf area or leaf area outside the cylinder of a container, in conjunction with increasing distance between containers, were significantly (P < 0.05) correlated with increases in % capture for ligustrum and viburnum. Increases in % capture partially compensated for decreases in percentage of production area occupied by viburnum containers as distances between containers increased, but not for the other two species. Under commercial conditions, optimal irrigation efficiency would be achieved when plants are grown at the minimum spacing required for commercial quality. This spacing should not extend beyond the point where canopies become isolated.