Little research has examined water requirements of entire irrigated urban landscapes integrating different types of plants. Three landscape treatments integrating different types of plants—woody, herbaceous perennial, turf—and putative water use classifications—mesic, mixed, xeric—were grown in large drainage lysimeters. Each landscape plot was divided into woody plant, turf, and perennial hydrozones and irrigated for optimum water status over 2 years and water use measured using a water balance approach. For woody plants and herbaceous perennials, canopy cover rather than plant type or water use classification was the key determinant of water use relative to reference evapotranspiration (ETo) under well-watered conditions. For turf, monthly evapotranspiration (ETa) followed a trend linearly related to ETo. Monthly plant factors (Kp) for woody plants, perennials, and turf species under well-watered conditions in this study ranged from 0.3 to 0.9, 0.2 to 0.5, and 0.5 to 1.2, respectively. Adjusted Kp for each hydrozone was calculated based on landscaped area covered by plant types as a percent of total area, and landscape factor (Kl) was calculated based on adjusted Kp for each landscape treatment. Overall, Kl relative to ETo ranged from 0.6 to 0.8 for three water use classifications.
The ongoing drought in the Intermountain West has brought a great deal of attention to water conservation over the past several years. During that time, turfgrass irrigation has been targeted as a source for large potential water savings. Some communities promote downsizing turfgrass areas as the best water conservation measure. In reality, turfgrass controls erosion, reduces evaporation from a site, and provides a safe surface for human activities. One alternative to elimination would be wider use of low water-use-grasses appropriate to the area. However, many questions arise regarding the choice of such grasses and their management. Our research addresses these questions. Plots have been established at Montana State University, Bozeman; Utah State University, Logan; and USDA-NRCS Plant Materials Center, Bridger, Mo. The grasses considered include 12 single species and 12 mixed species stands of `Cody' buffalograss, `Foothills' Canada bluegrass, `Bad River' blue grama, sheep fescue, sandberg bluegrass, muttongrass, and wheatgrasses `Sodar' streambank, `Road Crest' crested, `Rosana' western, and `Critana' thickspike with Kentucky bluegrass and tall fescue as controls. Line source irrigation allowed the plots to be evaluated at a number of levels of irrigation. Experimental measurements on the plots included growth response as determined by clipping yield and quality ratings, and species composition. Fescues and wheatgrasses retained their color, texture, and density throughout the growing season, regardless of moisture level. Warm-season grasses performed well in June, July, and August only, and worked poorly in mixtures as the green cool-season grasses could not mask the brown dormant leaves in cooler weather.
Although salinity is becoming an increasing concern for landscape plants in many areas of the West, few studies have been carried out to evaluate salinity responses of ornamental plants, especially herbaceous perennials. We investigated salinity tolerance of four traditionally grown and four Intermountain West native ornamental herbaceous perennials. Penstemo×mexicali `Red Rocks', Leucanthemum×uperbum `Alaska', Echinacea purpurea, Lavandula angustifolia, Geranium viscosissimum, Eriogonum jamesii, Penstemon palmeri, and Mirabilismultiflora were irrigated with water containing a mixture of 2 CaCl2: 1 NaCl at salinity levels of 0.33 (tap water control), 2.2, 5.4, and 8.3 dS·m-1 for 8 weeks. Growth, visual quality, and gas exchange were assessed. Mirabilis multiflora and L.×uperbum `Alaska' showed high salt tolerance based on visual quality. No noticeable leaf necrosis was observed for either species at any salinity level. However, over the 8-week period, growth rates for L. superbumwere reduced by 35%, 58%, and 72% compared to the control for the 2.2, 5.4, and 8.3 dS·m-1 salinity levels, respectively. The decrease in growth did not reduce visual quality. Growth rates for M. multiflora were slightly higher than the control for the 2.2 and 5.4 dS·m-1 salinity levels and dropped about 20% at the highest salinity level. Echinaceapurpureashowed the lowest tolerance to salinity, as evidenced by substantial margin burn at all salinity levels as well as high mortality; all plants in the highest salinity treatment died.
We investigated drought responses of Echinacea purpurea, Gaillardia aristata, Lavandula angustifolia, Leucanthemum ×uperbum `Alaska', Penstemonbarbatus`Rondo', and Penstemo×mexicali `Red Rocks' established in a 10-gal pot-in-pot system in northern Utah. Plants were irrigated at frequencies of 1, 2, or 4 weeks between June and Sept. 2004. Osmotic potential, gas exchange, visual quality, leaf area, and dry biomass were assessed. In a confined root zone, P. barbatusshowed the greatest tolerance to drought, avoiding desiccation by increasing root: shoot ratio and decreasing transpiration as water became more limiting. Plants maintained high visual quality throughout the study and experienced little wilt, burn, or dieback. However, P. barbatus above-ground biomass was reduced by 15% for the 2-week treatment and by 40% for the 4-week treatment. Alternatively, G. aristata and L. superbum displayed drought avoidance mechanisms, dying back when water was limiting and resprouting after they were watered. Above-ground biomass declined by 50% and 84% for G. aristata and 47% and 99% for L. superbum, respectively, for the 2- and 4-week treatments. Root mass was affected similarly for both species. However, transpiration remained high for all treatment levels. Leaf burn and reduction in above- and below-ground biomass were also evident for E. purpurea at the 2- and 4-week treatments, but results were not as pronounced as for G. aristata and L. superbum. Overall, P. barbatusexhibited the greatest drought tolerance while maintaining an acceptable appearance. G. aristata, contrary to expectations, did not exhibit drought tolerance with a confined rooting volume, suggesting that it avoids drought in landscapes by means of deep rooting.
Visual ratings are the standard for evaluating turfgrass quality. However, to provide more objective evaluations and to address statistical concerns, other methods have been developed to measure turfgrass quality, including digital image analysis and measurements of chlorophyll content. These have been largely applied to traditionally used turfgrass species, but here we used these methods to evaluate turfgrass quality of nontraditional species and mixtures that are native or adapted to the intermountain west region of North America. Two fertilizer treatments (1.0 or 2.0 lb/1000 ft2 nitrogen) were applied to 21 different species and species mixtures in North Logan, UT. These plots were irrigated to replace 60% of the local evapotranspiration rate and were mowed at 4 inches. Turfgrass quality ratings were most effective in measuring quality among the diverse species used in this study. Because of the wider variation in acceptable visual characteristics and lower quality expectations for low-maintenance native turf, the objective evaluation methods proved less useful. Generally, chlorophyll meter data, digital image analysis of cover, and digital image analysis of color data were not well correlated with human visual quality ratings in this study. Measurements were well correlated in some species, but not in others. These methods can supplement, but cannot replace, human visual turfgrass quality ratings for comparison of dissimilar grasses.
Available water for urban landscape irrigation is likely to become more limited because of inadequate precipitation and the ever-increasing water demand of a growing population. Recent droughts in the western United States have also increased the demand for low-water-use landscapes in urban areas. Penstemon species (beardtongues) are ornamental perennials commonly grown in low-water-use landscapes, but their drought tolerance has not been widely investigated. The objectives of this study were to determine the effects of water availability on the morphology, physiology, and canopy temperature of Penstemon barbatus (Cav.) Roth ‘Novapenblu’ (Rock Candy Blue® penstemon), P. digitalis Nutt. ex Sims ‘TNPENDB’ (Dakota™ Burgundy beardtongue), P. ×mexicali Mitch. ‘P007S’ (Pikes Peak Purple® penstemon), and P. strictus Benth. (Rocky Mountain penstemon). Twenty-four plants of each penstemon species were randomly assigned to blocks in an automated irrigation system, and the substrate volumetric water content was maintained at 0.15 or 0.35 m3⋅m−3 for 50 days. The decreased substrate volumetric water content resulted in a decreased aesthetic appearance of the four penstemon species because of the increased numbers of visibly wilted leaves and chlorosis. Plant growth index [(height + (width 1 + width 2)/2)/2], shoot number, shoot dry weight, leaf size, and total leaf area also decreased as the substrate volumetric water content decreased, but the root-to-shoot ratio and leaf thickness increased. Photosynthesis decreased, stomatal resistance increased, and warmer canopy temperatures were observed when plants were dehydrated. Additionally, as substrate volumetric water content decreased, the leaf reflectance of P. barbatus and P. strictus increased. Penstemon digitalis, which had the highest canopy–air temperature difference, was sensitive to drought stress, exhibiting a large proportion of visibly wilted leaves. Penstemon ×mexicali, which had the lowest root-to-shoot ratio, had the lowest shoot water content of the species studied and more than 65% of leaves visibly wilted when experiencing drought stress. Penstemon barbatus and P. strictus, native to arid regions, exhibited lower canopy–air temperature differences and better aesthetic quality than the other two species. Under the conditions of this study, Penstemon barbatus and P. strictus exhibited better drought tolerance than P. digitalis and P. ×mexicali.
Recent advances in irrigation technologies have led many states to incentivize homeowners to purchase United States Environmental Protection Agency WaterSense-labeled, smart irrigation controllers. However, previous research of smart controllers has shown that their use may still result in excess water application when compared with controllers manually programmed to replace actual water loss. This study compared kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis) irrigation applications using three smart irrigation controllers, a conventional irrigation controller programmed according to Cooperative Extension recommendations, and the average irrigation rate of area homeowners in Utah during 2018 and 2019. Of all the controllers tested, the manually programmed controller applied water at amounts closest to the actual evapotranspiration rates; however, smart controllers applied from 30% to 63% less water than area homeowners, depending on the controller and year of the study. Kentucky bluegrass health and quality indicators—percent green cover and normalized difference vegetation indices—varied between years of the study and were lower than acceptable levels on several occasions in 2019 for three of the four controllers tested. Compared with the results of similar studies, these findings suggest that the effects of smart irrigation controllers on turfgrass health and quality may vary by location and over time.
Increased urban and suburban populations in the arid western United States have resulted in more water demand; however, water availability in the region has become limited because of inadequate precipitation. Recent droughts have led to restrictions on irrigating landscape plants. Garden rose (Rosa ×hybrida) is commonly used as flowering plants in residential landscapes, but its drought tolerance has not been widely studied. The objective of this study was to determine the impact of reduced irrigation frequency on visual quality, plant growth, and physiology of five garden rose cultivars, including ChewPatout (Oso Easy® Urban Legend®), Meibenbino (Petite Knock Out®), MEIRIFTDAY (Oso Easy® Double Pink), Overedclimb (Cherry Frost™), and Radbeauty (Sitting Pretty™). Twenty-four plants of each rose cultivar were established in a trial plot at Utah Agricultural Experiment Station Greenville Research Farm (North Logan, UT, USA) in Summer 2021. Plants were randomly assigned to one of three deficit irrigation treatments for which irrigation frequencies were calculated using 80% reference evapotranspiration (ETO) (high), 50% ETO (medium), and 20% ETO (low). The total volumes of irrigation water applied to each plant were 345.6, 172.8, and 43.2 L for the high, medium, and low irrigation frequencies, respectively, during the deficit irrigation trial from 12 May to 30 Sep 2022. Root zones were wetted more frequently as irrigation frequency increased from low to high irrigation frequencies. Decreased irrigation frequency increased the number of visibly wilted and damaged leaves on all rose cultivars. However, only ‘Meibenbino’ and ‘MEIRIFTDAY’ exhibited a reduction in overall appearance under decreased irrigation frequency. The relative growth indices of both ‘Meibenbino’ and ‘MEIRIFTDAY’ decreased by 6%, whereas the dry weights of their leaves decreased by 37% and 36%, respectively, as irrigation decreased from high to low frequencies. Roses in this study appeared to decrease stomatal conductance up to 51% when irrigation decreased from high to low frequencies, or when air temperature increased. ‘Meibenbino’ and ‘MEIRIFTDAY’ exhibited unacceptable overall appearance, growth reduction, and higher leaf–air temperature differences, and they were less tolerant to reduced irrigation. Although the ‘Radbeauty’ maintained plant growth under the reduced irrigation frequency, the large leaf size led to a more visibly wilted appearance and the potential for heat stress, thus impairing visual quality. ‘ChewPatout’ and ‘Overedclimb’ were most tolerant to deficit irrigation at 20% ETO and maintained plant growth with acceptable visual quality and lower leaf temperatures when they received one irrigation during the growing season.