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Catherine A. Paul, Greg L. Davis, Garald L. Horst, and Steven N. Rodie

Water conservation in a landscape is an important issue because periodic water shortages are common in many regions of the world. This increases the importance of specifying landscape plants that require less water and matching the plant to site microclimates. Our objectives were to establish water-use rates for three herbaceous landscape plants and to determine the level of water reduction these plants can tolerate while maintaining both visual and landscape quality. Water use rates were determined for Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem), Hosta spp. (Hosta) and Festuca cinerea `Dwarf' (Dwarf blue fescue) in studies using pot lysimeters at the Univ. of Nebraska Horticulture Research Greenhouse facility. Each lysimeter was watered to saturation, allowed to drain to field capacity, and weighed. The lysimeters were weighed again 24 h later, and the process was repeated to determine daily evapotranspiration. Results indicated that hosta used less water than dwarf blue fescue and little bluestem. In a subsequent study to compare the relative effects of withholding irrigation among these species, seven groups of five replicates of each species were grown in 1 peat: 0.33 vermiculite: 0.66 soil: 1 sand (by volume) in 7.6-L containers. Each container was watered to saturation, allowed to drain for 24 h to reach field capacity, and allowed to dry down in 10-day increments. Results of the dry-down study indicated that little bluestem maintained the best visual quality for the longest duration of drought, followed by dwarf blue fescue and hosta in decreasing order of visual quality.

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Sloane M. Scheiber, Richard C. Beeson, and Heather Bass

Native plants are often promoted as an approach for water conservation in urban landscapes. However, information regarding plant water needs is based primarily upon anecdotal observations of plant performance. Direct comparisons between native and introduced species using physiological measures of plant water stress are unavailable to support or refute such recommendations. Ligustrum japonicum and Myrica cerifera, representing an introduced and native species, respectively, were transplanted into a fine sand soil to evaluate establishment rates and growth characteristics under two irrigation regimes. Each species was irrigated either daily or every 3 days and received 1.3 cm of irrigation per event for 8 months after transplant. Predawn, midday, and dusk water potentials were recorded on three consecutive days monthly, with cumulative stress intervals calculated. Height, growth indices, shoot dry mass, root dry mass and leaf area were also recorded. Water potential was significantly influenced by day of water stress level. On days without irrigation, water stress was generally greater and affected growth. Myrica irrigated daily had the greatest growth, yet plants receiving irrigation every 3 days had the least growth and greater leaf drop. In contrast, for Ligustrum there were no differences between irrigation regimes in growth responses except for growth index.

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Jon Sammons and Daniel K. Struve

Water is quickly becoming one of the world's most precious resources. Micro- and cyclical irrigation are two effective ways that reduce irrigation volume without reducing plant quality. Development of a control mechanism to deliver timely and appropriate irrigation volumes combined with the advantages of micro- and cyclical irrigation will allow maximum water conservation and plant quality. For container-grown nursery plants, the interaction of container geometry and media physical properties dictate the volume of water available for plant uptake. The maximum amount of water a container substrate can hold under gravity is container capacity (CC). We managed season-long irrigation volumes by maintaining CC at three levels; 100% CC; 80% CC; and 60% CC, and used a set irrigation as a commercial control. The results showed similar plant growth for the 100% and set irrigation control groups through the growing season. However, the scheduled regime applied 50% more water than the group maintained at 100% CC. Our system increased water use efficiency without decreasing plant quality.

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Susan D. Day, Paula Diane Relf, and Marc T. Aveni

A multi-faceted extension education program to reduce consumer contributions to nonpoint source pollution by encouraging proper landscape management was initiated in Prince William County, Va., and funded through the USDA-extension service. The program now is being replicated in several counties in Virginia, primarily in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The program recruits participants through educational field days, advertisement and other means. Educational techniques include one-on-one assistance from Master Gardener volunteers and the use of Extension publications developed for this program. Publications developed include The Virginia Gardener Easy Reference to Sustainable Landscape Management and Water Quality Protection—a concise reference of Virginia Cooperative Extension landscaping recommendations that includes a calendar for recording fertilizer and pesticide applications, IPM, and other maintenance activities. The Virginia Gardener Guide to Water-wise Landscaping, was recently added to supplement the program in the area of water conservation. In Prince William County, over 700 people have participated. Most of those who complete the program report being more satisfied with their lawn appearance and spending less money. Participation also resulted in consumers being more likely to seek soil test information before applying fertilizer. Other effects include greater participation in leaf composting and grass clipping recycling and greater awareness of nonpoint source pollution.

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Traci Armstrong, J.E. Wolfe III, J.C. Bradley, and J.M. Zajicek

Ornamental grasses are currently growing in popularity and are being used in parks, public plantings, and commercial landscapes. This study was developed to determine the esthetic appeal of 12 ornamental grasses and evaluate public attitude toward the use of these grasses in low-maintenance landscapes. Grasses were selected for this evaluation using the following criteria: recommendations of experts in the ornamental grass field; material used in the nursery trade; and recommendations in popular literature. Two field sites were prepared and planted in the Spring 1991 and 1992. Both sites were maintained and irrigated to enhance the survivability of the grasses. The survey was conducted on several dates in the Fall 1992. Participants responded to questions regarding ornamental grass use, and the need for research on water conservation in landscapes. In addition, participants were asked to rank the individual grass species as to their accept-ability for landscape use. The results of the survey indicate that visual aesthetics are a major factor in public acceptance of landscape materials. In addition, the majority of ornamental grasses tested in this study were acceptable alternatives for low-maintenance landscapes with native and introduced species equal in performance.

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Sloane M. Scheiber, Maria Paz, Edward F. Gilman, Kimberly A. Moore, Sudeep Vyapari, and Richard C. Beeson Jr.

Landscape water consumption has become a prime target for water conservation and regulation. Imposing water restrictions during landscape establishment is detrimental to plants that have not developed sufficient root systems to compensate for transpirational water losses. Generally, municipalities regulate irrigation frequency but not application rate. Application frequency affects establishment rates of shade trees, but the effects on shrub establishment are not well documented. This study evaluated three irrigation frequencies during establishment of Ilex cornuta `Burfordii Nana' and Viburnum odoratissimumin a landscape. To simulate maximum stress, both species were transplanted into field plots in an open-sided, clear polyethylene covered shelter. Each species was irrigated either every 2, 4, or 7 days, and received 9 L of water per plant per event. Predawn, midday, and dusk water potentials were recorded at 28-day intervals and cumulative stress intervals calculated. Water potentials were taken the day prior to irrigation (maximum stress day) and the day of irrigation (minimum stress). Growth indices were also recorded. As days after transplant (DAT) increased, significant declines in cumulative water stress of Ilexwere found among treatments on the day of maximum stress. The 7-day treatment declined at a faster rate than the other treatments tested. No differences were found for Viburnum. No significant differences were found on the day of irrigation as DAT increased. Differences in canopy size were not significant among treatments for either species.

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D.R. Pittenger, Donald R. Hodel, and David A. Shaw

Non-turf ground-covers occupy a significant portion of the landscape, and understanding their water requirements is important when water conservationism being practiced. Six groundcover species (Baccharis pilularis `Twin Peaks', Drosanthemum hispidum, Vinca major Gazania hybrid, Potentilla tabernaemontani and Hedera helix `Needlepoint') representing a range of observed water needs were evaluated under different levels of irrigation based on percentages of real-time reference evapotranspiration.

Treatments of 100%, 75%, 50% and 25% of ETO were applied during 1989 while treatments of 50%, 40%, 30% and 20% of ETO were applied during 1990. Plant performance ratings in the first year indicated that 50% of ETO was the minimum treatment which resulted in acceptable plan aesthetics for all species except for Drosanthemum which performed equally well at each treatment. Significant differences in performance did occur among and within species at the different treatments. Results from 1990 will reveal which species might maintain aesthetic appearance at irrigation levels between 50% and 20% of ETO. These results will be presented and discussed in terms of their significance to species selection and total landscape irrigation management.

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Richard A. Wit, Garald L. Horst, Donald H. Steinegger, and Blaine L. Blad

Depletion and contamination of traditional water supplies and population pressures are straining the water resources of the United States. This has placed increased emphasis on the need for water conservation through all phases of the use cycle. Objectives of this research were to: 1) Determine water use in residential, commercial, and institutional landscapes; 2) Evaluate landscape irrigation system performance; and 3) Evaluate feasibility of landscape irrigation scheduling. Beginning in 1991, water meters on 18 test sites in Lincoln, NE were read on a weekly basis. Water meter readings during the winter were used to develop a baseline on non-landscape water use. The “can test” method was used to evaluate landscape irrigation system precipitation rate and distribution efficiency. Four recording weather stations were used to estimate daily potential evapotranspiration (ETp). Lysimeters (20 cm dia. × 31 cm deep) were installed in two Kentucky bluegrass and one tall fescue landscape to estimate water use coefficients for calculating landscape evapotranspiration. Irrigation system Christiansen coefficients of uniformity ranged from .43 to .87 with scheduling coefficients ranging from 1.31 to over 15.14. Poor irrigation system performance characteristics made it difficult to schedule irrigation on estimated water use.

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Kimberly A. Poff and Jayne M. Zajicek

Uniconizole has great potential for use in both the landscape and nursery industry for improved plant quality, more efficient maintenance techniques, and increased water conservation. A study was conducted to evaluate the effects of uniconizole and methods of application on growth, development, and water use of asiatic jasmine and vinca. Treatments consisted of 1.25 mg A.I., 2.5 mg A.I., or 5 mg A.I. applied in a 25 ml spray or 25 ml soil drench. Another study was conducted to determine if the growth regulation effects could be overcome by direct application of GA. GA3 and GA4+7 were applied at rates of 2.5 mg A.I., 12.5 mg A.I., or 25 mg A.I. in a 25 ml solution after growth reduction had occurred. The 5 mg A.I. uniconizole spray and drench treatments were most effective in reducing growth and whole plant transpiration for asiatic jasmine and vinca respectively. Transpiration per unit leaf area was not reduced for any treatment except for asiatic jasmine at the highest drench rate.

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O. Gulsen, R.C. Shearman, K.P. Vogel, D.J. Lee, P.S. Baenziger, T.M. Heng-Moss, and H. Budak

Buffalograss [Buchloe dactyloides (Nutt.) Engelm.] has the potential for increased use as a turfgrass species due to its low maintenance and water conservation characteristics. This study was conducted to estimate diversity and relationships among naturally occurring buffalograss genotypes based on the nuclear genome, using sequence-related amplified polymorphism (SRAP) markers. The 56 genotypes studied represented five ploidy levels collected from diverse geographic locations in the North American Great Plains. In addition, blue grama [Bouteloua gracilis (H.B.K.) Lag. Ex Steud.] and perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) were included as outgroups. Twenty-five combinations of forward and reverse primers were used. Ninety-five intensively amplified markers were scored and used to infer diversity and relationships among the genotypes. All buffalograss genotypes were discriminated from each other with similarity values ranging from 0.70 to 0.95. Principal component analysis (PCA) suggested that the 56 genotypes could be reduced to 50 due to high similarity levels among some of the genotypes. The distance between buffalograsses, blue grama, and perennial ryegrass were consistent with current taxonomical distances. This research indicates that SRAP markers can be used to estimate genetic diversity and relationships among naturally occurring buffalograss genotypes.