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Gisele Schoene, Thomas Yeager, and Joe Ritchie

In crop models, it is important to determine the leaf area, because the amount of light interception by leaves influences two very important processes in the plant: photosynthesis and evaporation. Leaf area is dependent on leaf appearance and expansion rates. Leaf appearance rate is driven mainly by temperature. Although the influence of temperature on leaf area development is well known for several agronomic crops, there is no information for woody ornamentals. An experiment was conducted to study the relationship between temperature and leaf appearance of container-grown sweet viburnum. Plants were grown in field conditions in Gainesville, Fla., during two growing periods (Apr. to Aug. 2004 and Aug. 2004 to Jan. 2005). Daily maximum and minimum temperature and leaf appearance were recorded. Linear regression equations were fitted to data and maximum and minimum temperature and leaf appearance were recorded. Linear regression equations were fitted to data and base temperature was assumed to be 8 °C. Thermal time (°C d) was calculated as daily average maximum and minimum air temperature minus the base temperature and was regressed against leaf number. The sum of accumulated thermal time was found to be linearly correlated with leaf number. Phyllochron, which is the thermal time between the appearances of successive leaves, was estimated 51 °C per day. The information presented in this study will be useful in modeling water use of sweet viburnum in response to environmental conditions.

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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.

Free access

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.

Free access

Richard C. Beeson and Thomas H. Yeager

Ligustrum japonicum, Rhododendron indica `Southern Charm' and Viburnum odoratissimum in 10-L containers were placed in a square grid pattern and overhead irrigated using impact sprinklers (30.3 L/min). Plants were irrigated with 12.5 mm with containers touching and, at 5 cm spacings, up to 50 cm between containers. Irrigation water reaching container surfaces (percent capture) increased for all species as container spacing increased. However, the increase in percent capture did not increase irrigation application efficiency because the percent of production area covered by the containers declined as spacing increased. Application efficiency declined with each increase in spacing to a low of 7%. The effects of intraand inter-canopy interference are discussed.

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

Fabric containers (FAB), due to their root-pruning properties, can be used as an alternative to conventional plastic containers (PLA) in container nurseries. Because sidewall evaporation in FAB has been shown to reduce container substrate temperatures, our objective was to determine if FAB would reduce the release rate of controlled-release fertilizer (CRF), resulting in less leachate loss of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) and greater CRF longevity. Dwarf Burford holly were grown in 36-cm-diameter (18-L substrate) FAB or PLA in a bark-peat substrate with incorporated CRF. Spray stake irrigation was routinely adjusted to a target leaching fraction of 25%. Maximum daily substrate temperature, measured 3 cm from southwest-facing container wall, averaged 6 °C lower in FAB than in PLA. For two 31-week experiments where leachate was continuously collected and sampled weekly, FAB reduced leachate N loss by 30% and P loss by 47% despite requiring 66% more irrigation water and collecting 31% more leachate than with PLA. FAB reduced average N loss from 114 to 78 kg·ha−1 and average P loss from 16.0 to 8.6 kg·ha−1. FAB increased plant size by 8% and shoot dry weight by 12% for one experiment but had no effect in the other. We concluded that compared with PLA, the use of FAB can decrease leachate loss of N and P but require considerably more irrigation water to offset water loss via sidewall evaporation.

Full access

Gisele Schoene, Thomas Yeager, and Dorota Haman

A survey was conducted of nursery operators participating in workshops in west-central Florida. The purpose of the survey was to identify the irrigation best management practices (BMPs) adopted by container nurseries in west-central Florida and obtain information regarding emphasis of future extension educational programs. Workshops were conducted in Hillsborough County, Fla., and Manatee County, Fla., and participation was voluntary. Respondents were asked about BMPs used in the nurseries according to the irrigation system used and it was found that the majority of the nurseries relied on well water as the primary source for irrigation. While 69% of the nurseries monitored uniformity of microirrigation systems, only 35% monitored uniformity of overhead irrigation systems. Thirty-four percent of the nurseries collected irrigation or rain runoff and 9% knew the water holding capacity of their substrate. Most of the nurseries grouped plants by irrigation requirements (74%) and grouped container sizes by irrigation requirements (69%). The survey indicates that many BMPs are not widely adopted by nurseries in west-central Florida. The information from this survey can be used as a guide to focus the efforts of university extension educational programs to achieve greater adoption of BMPs.

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.

Free access

Thomas Yeager, Claudia Larsen, and Gisele Martins

Multiple branched liners of Ilex vomitoria Ait. `Nana' were greenhouse-grown in 3-L containers with a 2 pine bark: 1 Canadian peat: 1 sand substrate. Plants were fertilized weekly with a solution of 50 N, 10 P, and 30 K (mg·L–1) for either 5, 10, or 15 weeks. Then plants for each of the three fertilizer durations were fertilized weekly with a solution of either 50, 150 or 300 N, 10 P, and 30 K (mg·L 1) for an additional 15 weeks, at which time root and shoot dry weights were determined. A control group of plants was fertilized weekly with 300 N (mg·L–1) for 30 weeks. Shoot dry weight increased linearly as fertilizer rate or duration of fertilization increased. Root dry weights increased linearly as fertilizer duration increased while root dry weights were not different due to fertilizer rate. These data indicate that duration of fertilization is important in promoting root and shoot growth; however, the largest amount of root and shoot dry weight resulted from the highest N application rate (300 mg·L–1) for the longest duration (30 weeks).

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.