Subirrigation, such as the ebb-and-flow culture (EBB) system, is a popular method in containerized plant production for controlling the application of fertilizer, water, and pesticides, and for improving production efficiency (Dole et al., 1994; Uva and Weiler, 2001). Among wick culture subirrigation systems, the nutrient-stagnant wick culture (NSW) system has been widely used in areas of high evapotranspiration, such as tropical and subtropical countries (Ritchey and Fox, 1974). It also has been used in experiments for the analysis of nutrients and herbicides, and to study the hatching of insects in soil, because the system has an ability to maintain a selected soil moisture content continuously (Dolar and Keeney, 1971; Marrone, 1982; Stalder and Pestermer, 1980). In this system, water and nutrients are supplied to the pots filled with growing media by capillary action of the wicks (Dolar and Keeney, 1971; Toth et al., 1988). Thus, the water content of the medium in this system is dependent on various factors such as composition of the medium, wick width, wick length, and the number of wicks.
However, the NSW system causes various problems, such as excessive evaporation, high water content of the medium, unclean stagnant water, and possible water leakage from corrosion of old troughs (Griess, 1972; Hewitt, 1966; Son et al., 2006; Toth et al., 1988). To overcome these problems, we developed a new subirrigation system, the nutrient-flow wick culture (NFW) system, that can supply nutrient solution into the inclined trough with specific irrigation time and frequency, and thus control the amount of the solution moving up into the pots through the wicks (Son et al., 2006).
However, we needed to determine how pot size, wick length and width, and medium composition affected irrigation time and frequency for good plant growth in the NFW system. Thus, the objectives of this study were to analyze the factors affecting the water content of growing medium in the NFW system and to compare the growth of potted ‘New Alter’ kalanchoe in the NFW system with those in the NSW and EBB systems.
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