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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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Marsha Ann Bower, David H. Trinklein, and John M. Brown

Recent trends in greenhouse container production suggest using ebb and flow irrigation for water conservation and pollution control. A major problem in this system is management of soil borne pathogens. Some species of Trichoderma, a beneficial fungi, are known to control Pythium and Phytopthora in container production. This study investigates the potential of applying a Trichoderma conidial spore suspension in an ebb and flow irrigation system. Trichoderma conidia were collected from culture and placed in 101 l stock solution tanks at 10-2 and 10-4 colony forming units (CFU) per ml. Six inch container grown Dendranthema grandiflora `Delano', were irrigated as needed. To determine Trichoderma density in the root environment, soil samples were acquired from the container at 7 day intervals. Results showed that initial population densities of 10-4 CFU/ml were required to achieve adequate container populations to control disease after one irrigation. This study successfully demonstrated that Trichoderma could be dispersed through irrigation water into container plants in an ebb and flow system.

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Dennis R. Pittenger, David A. Shaw, and William E. Richie

We conducted an evaluation of three commercial weather-sensing irrigation controllers to determine the climatic data they use, how easy they are to set up and operate, and how closely their irrigation regimes match landscape irrigation needs established by previous field research. The devices virtually controlled an existing reference irrigation system and used its system performance data as required in their initial setup. Reference standard treatments for cool-season turfgrass, trees/shrubs and annual flowers were calculated using onsite, real-time reference evapotranspiration (ETo) data and plant factors developed primarily from previous research. The reference irrigation system applied the correct amount of water to an actual tall fescue turfgrass planting whose water needs served as the reference standard treatment comparison for the cool-season turfgrass treatment. Virtual applied water was recorded for other plant materials and it was compared to the corresponding calculated reference standard amount. Results show each controller adjusted its irrigation schedules through the year roughly in concert with weather and ETo changes, but the magnitudes of adjustments were not consistently in proportion to changes in ETo. No product produced highly accurate irrigation schedules consistently for every landscape setting when compared to research-based reference comparison treatments. Greater complexity and technicality of required setup information did not always result in more accurate, water-conserving irrigation schedules. Use of a weather-sensing controller does not assure landscape water conservation or acceptable landscape plant performance, and it does not eliminate human interaction in landscape irrigation management.

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Jinmin Fu, Jack Fry, and Bingru Huang

Deficit irrigation is increasingly used to conserve water, but its impact on turfgrass rooting has not been well documented. The objective of this study was to examine the effects of deficit irrigation on ‘Falcon II’ tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.) root characteristics in the field using a minirhizotron imaging system. The experiment was conducted on a silt loam soil from the first week of June to mid-Sept. 2001 and 2002 using a mobile rainout shelter under which turf received applications of 20%, 60%, or 100% of actual evapotranspiration (ET) twice weekly. Neither soil water content (0 to 25 cm) nor tall fescue rooting between 4.1- and 50.1-cm depths was affected by irrigation at 60% compared with 100% ET. Despite consistently lower soil water content, tall fescue irrigated at 20% ET exhibited an increase in root parameters beginning in July or August. Tall fescue subjected to 20% ET irrigation had greater total root length and surface area on two of five monitoring dates in 2002 compared with that receiving 100% ET. Evaluation of tall fescue rooting by depth indicated that root proliferation at 20% ET was occurring between 8.7- and 36.3-cm depths. As evaluated under the conditions of this experiment, turfgrass managers using deficit irrigation as a water conservation strategy on tall fescue should not be concerned about a reduction in rooting deep in the soil profile, and irrigation at 20% ET may result in root growth enhancement.

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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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D.I. Leskovar, P. Perkins-Veazie, and A. Meiri

Water conservation strategies are being investigated for watermelon [Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum. & Nakai] production in the Winter Garden region of southwest Texas. Our objective was to determine how yield and fruit quality of a triploid (cv. Summer Sweet 5244) and hybrid (cv. Summer Flavor 710) watermelon were affected by irrigation based on evapotranspiration (ET) rates and timing of application during spring. Irrigation treatments included constant 1.0 and 0.5 ET, three with varying ET before or after fruit set, and one with cycles of 1.0 and 0.5 ET. Fruit quality characteristics were measured at the unripe, ripe, and overripe maturity stages. Water deficit before or after fruit set decreased yield and fruit number. Flesh color was not affected by irrigation at any maturity stage. Soluble solid content at the ripe stage increased only in triploids irrigated with constant 0.5 ET or with 0.5 ET applied after fruit set. Triploid plants exposed to frequent cycles of water deficit set more and smaller fruit than hybrids. These data suggest that triploid watermelon types may have a different acclimation response to drought stress than diploid hybrids.

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Robert E. Call

The San Pedro River has been impacted by continued growth of Fort Huachuca Military Base. The San Pedro River, a riparian-migratory area, has had continuous water flow but now has intermittent water flow. The cause is cones of depression in the aquifer due to domestic well pumping. The aquifer is recharge with water from the river. Cooperative Extension has implemented Resource Conservation Audits for landowners in the lower San Pedro Valley. Also, outdoor classrooms are being constructed at three schools to educate children and community members. The goal of these programs is to educate landowners on water conservation through the use of native and adapted drought-tolerant plants, xeriscaping, irrigation efficiency, water harvesting, soil erosion, and composting. Site visits help landowners identify opportunities to reduce water use. Research-based informational brochures have been produced so landowners can plan and implement water-saving techniques on their properties. This program has been implemented using six members of the Border Volunteer Corp., part of Americorp program.

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Glenn D. Israel, Janice O. Easton, and Gary W. Knox

The Florida Cooperative Extension Service (FCES) teaches residents the importance of proper landscaping practices. FCES offers several educational programs that teach residents how to integrate energy and water conservation, pest management, and waste recycling practices into their home landscapes. In 1997, extension staff and volunteers planned and conducted environmental landscape management (ELM) programs resulting in >800,000 customer contacts. A survey was conducted to measure the adoption of recommended best management practices by program participants and nonparticipants. Results show that, of 39 practices examined, Master Gardener trainees increased the number of practices used by an average of 7.3, while educational seminar and publications-only participants increased by an average of 4.5 and 2.8 practices, respectively. Nonparticipants showed essentially no change. When practices are examined one at a time, the Master Gardeners made statistically significant increases in 28 of the 39 recommended practices. Educational seminar and publications-only participants made similar gains in 31 and 6 practices, respectively, and the nonparticipant comparison group made significant increases in 2 practices and decreases in 8. The results suggest that the publications-only strategy for delivering information to homeowners is less effective than strategies combining educational seminars or intensive training with relevant publications.

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Jason J. Griffin, William R. Reid, and Dale Bremer

Successful establishment and growth of newly planted trees in the landscape is dependent on many factors. Weed pressure and water conservation are typically achieved with either organic mulches or chemical herbicides applied over the root ball of the newly planted tree. In the landscape, eliminating turfgrass from the root zone of trees may be more complicated than resource competition. Studies have shown that tall fescue (Festucaarundinaceae Schreb.) has allelopathic properties on pecan trees [Caryaillinoiensis (Wangenh.) K. Koch]. Well-manicured tall fescue turf in the landscape may have negative effects on the establishment and growth of landscape trees as well. A study was designed to examine the effects of popular turfgrasses on the growth of newly planted pecan and redbud (Cerciscanadensis L.). Results demonstrate that the presence of turfgrass over the root zone of trees negatively impacts tree growth. Through two growing seasons, every growth parameter measured on redbuds (caliper, height, shoot growth, shoot dry weight, root dry weight, leaf area, and leaf weight) was significantly reduced by the presence of turf. However, the warm season bermudagrass [Cynodondactylon (L.) Pers.] was less inhibitied than the cool season grasses. The affects of turfgrass on pecan growth was less significant; however, caliper, leaf area, and root dry weight were significantly reduced when grown with turf.