Characterizing Salinity Limits of New Guinea Impatiens in Recirculating Subirrigation

in Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science
Authors:
Nancy Morgan ToddDepartment of Horticultural Sciences, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843-2133

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David Wm. ReedDepartment of Horticultural Sciences, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843-2133

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New Guinea impatiens (Impatiens hawkeri Bull.) were grown in a recirculating ebb-and-flow subirrigation system under increasing levels of salinity stress from a mixture of NaCl and CaCl2 (1:1 equivalent ratio, 2:1 molar ratio) and recommended production levels of other nutrients. Growth and quality decreased as salinity level increased, with a 75% to 80% growth reduction at 18 mol·m-3 NaCl-CaCl2 compared to controls. Among controls, root mass distribution was 10%, 50%, and 40% in the top, middle, and bottom layers of the root zone, respectively. In the highest salinity treatment (18 mol·m-3 NaCl-CaCl2), most of the root mass was in the middle layer (80%), while the root mass in the top and bottom layers was reduced to 5% and 15%, respectively. The electrical conductivity (EC) of the growing medium was high in the top layer in all treatments, but only exceeded maximum recommended levels in the middle and bottom layers in the 4·mol·m-3 or higher treatments. Initial postproduction leaching caused the salts in the top layer to migrate to the middle and bottom layers, which in some experiments induced a rapid and transient wilting. Up to six leaching and drying cycles of a 0.20 leaching fraction were required to reduce EC in all layers to recommended levels. Overall, salable plants of good quality and size were produced with up to 2 mol·m-3 (total 152 mg·L-1) NaCl-CaCl2 in the recirculated nutrient solution.

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