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Mark V. Yelanich and John A. Biernbaum

A model constructed to describe nitrogen dynamics in the root zone of subirrigated container-grown chrysanthemum was used to develop and test nitrogen fertilization strategies. The model predicts the nitrogen concentration in the root zone by numerical integration of the rates of nitrogen applied, plant nitrogen uptake, and nitrogen movement to the medium top layer. The three strategies tested were constant liquid N fertilization, proportional derivative control (PD) based upon weekly saturated medium extraction (SME) tests, or PD control based upon daily SME tests. The optimal concentration of N to apply using a single fertilization concentration was 14 mol·m–3, but resulted in greater quantities of N being applied than if PD controller strategies were used. The PD controllers were better able to maintain the predicted SME concentration within 7 to 14 mol·m–3 optimal range and reduce the overall sample variability over time. Applying 14 mol·m–3 N at every irrigation was found to be an adequate fertilization strategy over a wide range of environmental conditions because N was applied in excess of what was needed by the plant.

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William R. Argo and John A. Biernbaum

Impatiens were planted into peat-based media containing two dolomitic liming materials [Ca(OH)2·Mg(OH)2 at 1.8 kg·m–3 or CaCO3·MgCO3 at 8.4 kg·m–3] and subirrigated for 17 weeks using four irrigation water qualities (IWQ) with varied alkalinity, Ca2+, Mg2+, and SO4-S content and three water-soluble fertilizers (WSF) with varied NH4:NO3 ratio, Ca2+, Mg2+, and SO4-S content. After 8 weeks, medium pH ranged from 4.5 to 8.5. Lime type did not affect the long-term increase in medium pH, Ca2+, and Mg2+ concentrations with IWQ/WSF solutions containing low NH4-N and high Ca2+ and Mg2+ concentrations. The carbonate lime did buffer the medium pH, Ca2+, and Mg2+ concentrations with IWQ/WSF solutions containing high NH4-N and low Ca2+ and Mg2+ concentrations. With both lime types, there was a linear increase in tissue Ca and Mg as the applied concentrations increased from 0.5 to 4.0 mol·m–3 Ca2+ and 0.3 to 3.0 mol·m–3 Mg2+ with the various IWQ/WSF. The relationship was similar for both lime types up to week 8, after which tissue Ca and Mg decreased with the hydrated lime and low solution Ca2+ and Mg2+. Relationships were also developed between the applied SO4-S concentration and tissue S and medium pH and tissue P.

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William R. Argo and John A. Biernbaum

Hybrid impatiens were grown in 15 cm pots containing one of six root medium. After seven weeks, plant available water holding capacity (AWHC) was measured as the difference between the drained weight of the plant and pot after a one hour saturation and the weight of the pot when the plant wilted. Water absorption potential (WAP) was calculated as the capacity of each root medium to absorb applied irrigation water up to the AWHC and was measured at two moisture levels with top watering (two leaching fractions), drip irrigation (two leaching fractions) and flood subirrigation. Top watering moist media (initial AWHC = 35%) with leaching fractions of 30+ % was me most efficient method of rewetting media and was the only irrigation method tested to obtain WAP's of 100%. In comparison, flood subirrigation was the least efficient method of rewetting media with WAP of 27% for dry media (initial AWHC = 0%), and obtained a total WAP of 55% for moist media (initial AWHC = 23%). In media comparisons, the incorporation of a wetting agent into a 70% peat/30% bark mix at planting increased the WAP compared to the same media without a wetting agent with nine of the ten irrigation treatments.

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William R. Argo and John A. Biernbaum

Subirrigated Easter lilies were grown in five commercially formulated root media using one water-soluble fertilizer applied independently to each medium based on water-holding capacity and water loss. The number of irrigations ranged from 12 to 20 and the amount of applied water ranged from 5.3 to 6.8 liters for the uncovered media treatments. When the root-medium surface was covered with an evaporation barrier, the average amount of applied water was reduced by 35% compared to the uncovered media. The largest effect on root media pH was between uncovered and covered media due to the reduced amount of water applied. Similar macronutrient concentrations were measured in the five media during the experiment with few exceptions. The greatest differences in nutrient concentrations were found within the pots. The top 2.5 cm (top layer) contained nutrient concentrations up to 10 times higher than those measured in the remaining root medium (root zone) of the same pot. Covering the root-medium surface with an evaporation barrier reduced the stratification of fertilizer salts. Root-zone soluble salt concentrations of plants in the covered pots were similar to those of uncovered plants even though 36% less fertilizer was applied to the covered plants.

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William R. Argo and John A. Biernbaum

`V-14 Glory' poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima Willd. ex Klotzsch) were grown in five root media using top watering with 20% leaching for 112 days. Root media with a high water-holding capacity required fewer irrigations and fertilizer applications than those with a lower water-holding capacity. However, similar amounts of water were applied and leached with both types of root media over the entire experiment. The reduction in the number of fertilizations was compensated for by an increase in the amount (volume) of fertilizer applied at any one irrigation. The greatest differences in root-media nutrient concentrations were found between the top 2.5 cm (top layer) and the remaining root medium within the same pot (root zone). After 58 days, when fertilization with water-soluble fertilizer (28.6N–0P–8.5K mol·m–3) was stopped, nutrient concentrations in the top layer were 3 to 6 times greater than those in the root zone for all five root media tested. For the final 42 days of the experiment after fertilization was stopped, nutrient concentrations in the root zone remained at acceptable levels in all root media. The nutrients contained in the top layer may have provided a source of nutrients for the root zone once fertilization was stopped.

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William R. Argo and John A. Biernbaum

Hybrid impatiens (Impatiens Wallerana Hook. F.) were planted in a peat-based medium containing two dolomitic liming materials (1.8 kg Ca(OH)2·Mg(OH)2/m3 or 8.4 kg CaCO3·MgCO3/m3) and subirrigated for 17 weeks using four irrigation-water sources (IWSs) with varied bicarbonate alkalinity, Ca2+, Mg2+, and SO4-S content and three water-soluble fertilizers (WSFs) that contained (in mg) 200N-20P-200K/liter but a variable NH4: NO3 ratio, Ca2+, Mg2+, and SO4-S content. The factorial arrangement of the IWS and WSF resulted in a range of Ca2+, Mg2+, and SO4-S concentrations varying by a factor of 10. After 8 weeks, medium pH ranged from 4.5 to 8.5. The maximum critical medium pH for PO4-P uptake was 7.4 to 7.7, which probably was due to a change in most of the water-soluble P to the less-available HPO4 2- form. Lime type did not affect the long-term increase in medium pH, Ca2+, and Mg2+ concentrations with nutrient solutions containing low NH4 +-N and high Ca2+ and Mg2+. The carbonate lime buffered the medium pH and Ca2+ and Mg2+ concentrations with nutrient solutions containing high NH4 +-N and low Ca2+ and Mg2+ compared to that measured with the hydrated lime. With both lime types, there was a linear increase in tissue Ca and Mg as the applied concentrations of the various nutrient solutions increased from 18 to 210 mg Ca2+/liter and 7 to 90 mg Mg2+/liter. The relationship was similar for both lime types up to week 8, after which tissue Ca and Mg decreased more rapidly with the hydrated lime and low solution Ca2+ and Mg2+ compared to that of the same carbonate lime treatments. The minimum critical SO4-S concentration in the applied nutrient solution for plant uptake was 30 to 40 mg S/liter. Below this concentration, tissue S decreased rapidly; above, there was little effect on tissue S.

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William R. Argo and John A. Biernbaum

Four experiments were conducted with six liming materials of different particle sizes and six commercially available blended preplant nutrient charge (PNC) materials in the laboratory and in container culture with subirrigation for durations up to twenty-eight days. Liming material, particle size, and incorporation rate affected both the initial and final stable pH of one type of peat without an incorporated PNC. Saturated media extract (SME) Ca2+ and Mg2+ concentrations were below the acceptable recommended concentrations for both pulverized and superfine dolomitic lime at incorporation rates up to 7.2 kg·m-3. For the blended PNC materials, initial N, P, K+, Ca2+, and Mg2+ concentrations for five of the six PNC materials were at or above the optimal concentrations recommended for an SME, but did not remain persistent in the root zone. A large percentage of all nutrients tested moved from the root zone into the top 3 cm (top layer) of the pot within two days after planting. Nutrient concentrations in the top layer continued to increase even when nutrient concentrations in the root zone fell below acceptable levels for an SME. The importance of this fertilizer salt stratification within the pot lies in the reduced availability of nutrients to the plant.

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Mark V. Yelanich and John A. Biernbaum

The evaporation of water is a major source of water loss from potted plants which can be eliminated by placing a barrier at the exposed surface of media in the pot. To better understand the effect of reducing surface evaporation on growth and media nutrient concentration, 15 cm subirrigated poinsettias were produced with and without a pot cover. Both treatments received the same quantity of fertilizer, 75 mg·week-1 N for a total of 13 fertilizations. Uncovered pots received 12 more irrigations than pots with covers (20 vs. 32). Sixteen weeks after planting, covered plants had significantly less leaf area (2175 vs 2628 cm2), bract area (1655 vs 2137 cm2), height (24.1 vs 27.6 cm), fresh mass (116 vs 144 g) and dry mass (17 vs 20 g) than uncovered plants. Concentrations of N, P, K, Ca and Mg and EC (4.23 vs 2.65 mS·cm-1) were higher in the root-zone of covered plants than in uncovered plant. Covering the media surface did reduce the EC and the concentrations of N, P, K, Ca and Mg in the top layer (eg 13.47 mS·cm-1 vs 15.74 mS·cm-1) but stratification of salts to the top layer still occurred. Fertilizer salts in the top layer were shown to be less available to the plant than those in the root zone.

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William R. Argo and John A. Biernbaum

Rooted cuttings of `Gutbier V-l 4 Glory poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima Willd. ex Klotzsch) were grown in 15-cm pots using two irrigation methods, two water-soluble fertilization schedules, and two preplant root-media fertilization rates. No difference in shoot growth occurred with either top watering with 33% leaching or subirrigation. The top 2.5 cm (top layer) contained nutrient concentrations up to 10 times higher than those measured in the remaining root medium (root zone) of the same pot with both irrigation methods. Constant applications of28 mol N/m3 water-soluble fertilizer (WSF) limited shoot and root growth as measured at 3 and 8 weeks compared to a weekly increase in the concentration of WSF from 0 to 28 mol N/m3 in 7 mol N/m3 increments over a S-week period. The additional incorporation of 0.27 kg·m-3 mineral N to Metro Mix 510 before planting had no effect on fresh- or dry-weight accumulation. When the root-medium surface was covered by an evaporation barrier, 46% less water and 41% less N fertilizer were applied to plants of similar size, and higher root-zone nutrient levels were maintained over the 8 weeks of the experiment. The evaporation barrier had the greatest effect on increasing root-zone nutrient concentrations and reducing the growth of subirrigated plants.

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John A. Biernbaum and Natasha Bos Versluys

Important components of water management for transplant production include water quality, the frequency and volume of water application, and the method of application. Water quality factors of concern are alkalinity, soluble salts including sodium absorption ratio (SAR), and ions at potentially toxic concentrations including boron and fluoride. The available water in individual transplant cells is influence by container size and geometry, medium particle size, medium moisture release characteristics, and wetting agents but is primarily determined by irrigation frequency and the amount of water applied at each irrigation. Irrigation scheduling can be done using several methods but is influenced by the crop stage, the water volume applied, and the frequency of drying desired. Transplants can be watered by hose and breaker, stationary sprinklers, traveling boom sprinklers, fog nozzles, or subirrigation. The outcome of experiments testing effects of transplant size, transplant age and fertilizer rates are all influenced by water management.