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Thomas H. Yeager* and Kenneth A. Kuhl

Nursery operations have strategically positioned themselves close to markets and many are now an agricultural entity surrounded by urban encroachment. The environmental pressures of society have mounted at unprecedented rates, resulting in additional regulations for nurseries. Development and implementation of Best Management Practices (BMPs) for the nursery industry allows nurseries to be proactive and not wait for regulations that might harm the industry. Univ. extension personnel with BMP subject matter expertise can play a pivotal role in assisting the industry with development and implementation of proactive BMPs. Important steps that have served as a model for BMP development and implementation include the following. Establish need—the industry leadership must explain to nursery personnel the reasons why BMPs are needed and elicit assistance with BMP development from university personnel. Committee guidance—the industry leadership establishes a steering committee of nursery personnel representing various interests of the industry to work with university and regulatory personnel to conceptualize BMPs and develop objectives. Consensus development—steering committee communicates their objectives to the nursery industry, explains the impacts, and provides a mechanism for feedback to achieve broad-based stakeholder participation. BMPs drafted - steering committee writes a draft BMP manual that is available for industry review. Industry-wide input—steering committee aggressively seeks input from the industry, implements as many suggestions as possible, and informs industry of BMP manual revisions. Educational programs—university extension personnel conduct training for nursery operators implementing BMPs and track the impact of BMPs on nurseries.

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Richard C. Beeson Jr. and Thomas H. Yeager

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.

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Jeff B. Million and Thomas H. Yeager

The capacity for container-grown plants to capture sprinkler irrigation water plays a critical role in adjusting irrigation rates to deliver required amounts of water to the container substrate. The capture factor (CF) used to describe this capacity was defined as the amount of water captured with a plant relative to the amount captured without a plant. A wind-sheltered, irrigation test area was established to measure CF as affected by plant species, plant size, container size, container spacing, and sprinkler type. CF values for 11 marketable-sized, commonly grown plant species ranged from 1 to 4 with highest values exhibited by plant species with an upright, spreading growth habit. CF values increased as plant size increased. Close container spacings (less than one container diameter between adjacent containers) reduced CF when the allotted area outside the container limited the potential amount of water that could be captured. Compared with impact sprinklers, wobbler sprinklers increased irrigation capture 7% for Ligustrum japonicum grown in 27-cm-diameter containers but not in 16-cm-diameter containers. Results showed that CF is a dynamic parameter that depends on canopy size, container size, container spacing, and sprinkler type. A working knowledge of CF is crucial for determining irrigation requirements to maximize sprinkler irrigation efficiency in container nurseries.

Open access

Jeff B. Million and Thomas H. Yeager

Two experiments were conducted to determine if a leaching fraction (LF)-guided irrigation practice with fixed irrigation run times between LF tests (LF_FX) could be improved by making additional adjustments to irrigation run times based on real-time weather information, including rain, using an evapotranspiration-based irrigation scheduling program for container production (LF_ET). The effect of the two irrigation practices on plant growth and water use was tested at three target LF values (10%, 20%, and 40%). For both Viburnum odoratissimum (Expt. 1) and Podocarpus macrophyllus (Expt. 2) grown in 36-cm-diameter containers with spray-stake microirrigation, the change in plant size was unaffected by irrigation treatments. LF_ET reduced water use by 10% compared with LF_FX in Expt. 2 but had no effect (P < 0.05) on water use in Expt. 1. Decreasing the target LF from 40% to 20% reduced water use 28% in both experiments and this effect was similar for both irrigation practices. For the irrigation system and irrigation schedule used in these experiments, we concluded that an LF-guided irrigation schedule with a target LF of 10% resulted in plant growth similar to one with a target LF of 40% and that the addition of a real-time weather adjustment to irrigation run times provided little or no improvement in water conservation compared with a periodic adjustment based solely on LF testing.

Open access

Jeff B. Million and Thomas H. Yeager

Irrigation scheduling in container nurseries is challenging due to the wide range of plant production conditions that must be accounted for at any given time. An irrigation scheduling system should also consider weather affecting evapotranspiration to apply proper amounts of water that will ensure optimal growth with minimal runoff (container drainage). We developed an automated system that relies on routine leaching fraction (leachate/water applied) testing and real-time weather recorded on-site to make adjustments to irrigation. A web-based program (CIRRIG) manages irrigation zone inputs [weather and leaching fraction (LF) test results] and outputs irrigation run times that can be implemented automatically with programmable logic controllers. In this study conducted at a nursery in central Florida, we compared the automated technology (CIRRIG) with the nursery’s traditional irrigation practice (TIP) of manually adjusting irrigation based on substrate moisture status of core samples taken twice weekly. Compared with TIP, CIRRIG reduced water use in six of seven unreplicated trials with water savings being greater for microirrigated crops grown in large containers than for sprinkler-irrigated crops in small containers. Reduced pumping cost associated with water savings by CIRRIG was estimated to be $3250 per year, which was insignificant compared with the labor savings of $35,000 to $40,000 anticipated by the nursery using CIRRIG in lieu of TIP. At the end of the project, the necessary hardware was installed to expand CIRRIG nursery-wide and control 156 zones of irrigation.

Open access

Jeff B. Million and Thomas H. Yeager

Irrigation that decreases the leaching fraction (LF; leachate/water applied) has been shown to reduce fertilizer N and P leaching during the production of sprinkler-irrigated, container-grown plants; however, little research involving outdoor production of microirrigated plants in large containers has been conducted. Two microirrigation schedules based on routine leaching fraction testing were compared to determine their effects on water use and leaching losses of N and P during the production of Dwarf Burford holly in 36-cm-diameter (trade #7) containers. Applied irrigation water and leachate were collected continuously and sampled weekly during the 12-month experiment. An irrigation schedule adjusted once every 1 to 3 weeks to a target LF of 20% resulted in the application of 36% less water (383 vs. 597 L/plant) and 43% less leachate (255 vs. 445 L/plant) than a schedule adjusted to a target LF of 40%; plant growth was unaffected (P > 0.05). Irrigation schedules had no effect (P > 0.05) on cumulative N and P leaching losses, which were attributed in large part to rain. Average leaching losses of N and P were 15.2 and 2.2 g per container (210 and 30 kg·ha−1·year−1), respectively. Both N and P leaching losses represented 35% of the 43.5 g N and 6.3 g P applied per container in two controlled-release fertilizer applications. The results support the best management practice of scheduling irrigation based on routine LF testing to reduce irrigation water use but not reduce N and P leaching.

Free access

Thomas H. Yeager, Rebecca H. Harrison, and Dewayne L. Ingram

Ilex crenata Thunb. `Rotundifolia' grown in sand culture with the root zone at 40C for 6 hours daily had smaller root and shoot dry weights after 6 weeks than plants grown with root zones at 28 or 34C. Root and shoot N accumulation (milligrams N per gram of dry weight) decreased when root-zone temperatures were increased from 28 to 40C and plants were fertilized twice dally with either 75, 150, or 225 mg N/liter. Nitrogen application rates of 150 or 225 mg·liter-1 resulted in increased root and shoot N accumulation for plants grown with root zones at either 28, 34, or 40C compared with the 75 mg N/liter treatment. Increased N fertilization rates did not alleviate reduced plant growth due to the high root-zone temperature.

Free access

Bijan Dehgan, Joseph E. Durando, and Thomas H. Yeager

Cycas revoluta, an important ornamental palm-like plant of warmer regions of the world, often exhibits a foliar chlorotic/necrotic dieback in landscapes. Despite a weak correlation (r2 ≤ 0.28) of percent symptoms with soil nutrient levels or pH, symptom severity was correlated more notably (r2=0.49) with Mn and had even a higher correlation (r2 = 0.61) with the Fe : Mn ratio. Anatomical examination of chlorotic leaflets indicated an accumulation of tanniniferous cells but did not provide direct evidence of Mn deficiency. Although field surveys indicated a link between low Mn levels and Fe : Mn ratio in the plant and appearance of the disorder, the manifestation of symptoms could not be directly correlated with any edaphic factors. However, identical symptoms were induced in young plants by withholding Mn in a solution culture experiment. Application of chelated Mn on expanding leaves alleviated the disorder, but only for the current growth flush. Irrigation frequency in concert with other cultural practices probably are more responsible for development of symptoms than actual soil Mn inadequacy. In consideration of acute susceptibility of cycads to micronutrient deficiencies, plants should be supplied with a complete micronutrient fertilizer during growth in containers and before field planting.

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Edward F. Gilman, Thomas H. Yeager, and Diane Weigle

Dwarf burford holly (Ilex cornuta `Burfordii Nana') fertilized with N at 22.1 g per container yearly during production in the nursery generated more new shoot weight but less root weight after transplanting to a landscape than those receiving N at 14.8 g per container yearly. Slicing the root ball at planting, compared to not slicing, resulted in comparable regenerated root weight but reduced new shoot number, new shoot dry weight, and new shoot:regenerated root dry-weight ratio when irrigation was not applied daily after transplanting. Although irrigation frequency did not impact total weight of regenerated roots into landscape soil, more roots grew from the bottom half of the root ball when plants were irrigated periodically after planting than when plants received daily irrigation. Plants irrigated other than daily produced fewer shoots and less shoot weight than those receiving irrigation daily after transplanting. When plants were without irrigation for 4 or 6 days in the first week after transplanting, those planted without the nursery container on the root ball were more stressed (more negative xylem potential) than those planted with the container still on the root ball. However, 2 weeks later, plants without the nursery container were less stressed due to root growth into landscape soil.

Free access

Jeff B. Million*, Thomas H. Yeager, and Joseph P. Albano

The influence of production practices on runoff from container nurseries was investigated in Spring 2003 (March to July) and Fall 2003 (August to January). Viburnum odoratissimum (Ker-Gawl.) liners were planted in 3.8-L containers with a 2 pine bark: 1 sand: 1 Canadian peat substrate and placed on 1.5 m2-platforms at one of two plant spacing densities: 16 or 32 plants/m2 [spaced to 16 plants/m2 after 13 weeks (spring) or 14 weeks (fall)]. Overhead sprinkler irrigation was applied daily (1 cm) and runoff collected weekly. Osmocote 18 N-2.6 P-10 K was surface-applied to each container (15 g) in the spring and surface-applied or incorporated in the fall. Cumulative runoff averaged 1240 L·m-1; in spring (19 weeks) and 1050 L·m-1; in fall (20 weeks), which represented 72% and 66% of applied irrigation plus rainfall, respectively. The lower density spacing resulted in a 19% increase in cumulative runoff in spring (1340 vs. 1130 L·m-1) but had no effect in fall (970 vs. 890 L·m-1). Weighted average ECwa of runoff decreased 10% (0.436 vs. 0.485 dS·m-1) and 12% (0.420 vs. 0.476 dS·m-1) with the lower density spacing in spring and fall, respectively. ECwa in fall was not affected by fertilizer method. Plant size index [(height + width)/2] was reduced 22% in both spring (38.7 vs. 49.7 cm) and fall (26.9 vs. 34.4 cm) when plants were grown at the lower density spacing throughout production. This reduction in plant size was attributed to container heat stress. Plant size was unaffected by fertilizer application method (fall) but fertilizer incorporation resulted in greener plants than surface-applied fertilizer (60 vs. 53 SPAD readings).