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Douglas F. Welsh

Xeriscape, water conservation through creative landscaping, offers a viable alternative to traditional landscapes which require high inputs of water and labor. Xeriscape is not cactus and rock gardening; but, quality landscaping combining beautiful, function, and water efficiency.

Xeriscape is based on horticulturally sound principles, including: good design, through soil preparation, practical turf areas, appropriate plant selection, efficient watering techniques, mulching and proper maintenance.

Green plant and water industries across the nation have recognized Xeriscape as a proactive, education tool to curb excess water-use by the public and private sectors. In an era where water may become the limiting factor in economic growth for many regions of the nation, Xeriscape may truly be the state-of-the-art.

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G.D. Hoyt, D.W. Monks, and T.J. Monaco

Conservation tillage is an effective sustainable production system for vegetables. No-till planters and transplanters and strip-till cultivation equipment are presently available for most vegetables. Lack of weed management tools (herbicides, cultivators, etc.) continues to be the cultural practice that limits adaptability of some vegetables to conservation tillage systems. Nitrogen management can be critical when grass winter cover crops are used as a surface residue. Advantages of using conservation tillage include soil and water conservation, improved soil chemical properties, reduction in irrigation requirements, reduced labor requirements, and greater nutrient recycling. However, disadvantages may include lower soil temperatures, which can affect maturity date; higher chemical input (desiccants and post-emergence herbicides); potential pest carryover in residues; and enhancement of some diseases.

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C.D. Stanley and B.K. Harbaugh

Methodology was developed to estimate water requirements for production of 20 different potted ornamental plant species with practical application for water conservation in commercial operations. Water requirement prediction equations were generated using pan evaporation to estimate evaporative demand along with plant canopy height and width and flower height as input variables. Coefficients of determination (R2) for the prediction equations among plant species ranged from 0.51 to 0.91, with the lower values mostly associated with plant species with an open or less-uniform growth habit. Variation in water use among different cultivars of marigold also was associated with differences in cultivar growth habit. Estimation of the daily water requirements of potted Reiger begonia and Ficus benjamina using their developed prediction equations was compared to actual water use under common growing conditions to demonstrate the implementation of the method for plant species differing in growth habit.

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The use of microirrigation in Florida citrus production has increased rapidly in recent years. Most new groves are now being developed with microspray or drip irrigation. Many existing sprinkler and seepage (subirrigation) systems have also been converted to micro irrigation. Although water management districts have encouraged the use of micro irrigation for water conservation, research results which solved problems with the practical implementation of this technology and which demonstrated economic incentives are primarily responsible for its popularity in Florida citrus production. Research programs have (1) developed management techniques to eliminate emitter clogging, (2) demonstrated the effective use of microspray systems for freeze protection, (3) increased young tree growth with respect to conventional irrigation methods, (4) demonstrated the cost-effectiveness of microirrigation, and (5) developed management techniques for efficient use of water and nutrients in fruit production.

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Gerard W. Wall and Guy McDonnell

, U.S. Water Conservation Laboratory, Phoenix, Ariz., and the NSF/DOE/NASA/USDA Interagency program on Terrestrial Ecology and Global Change (TECO II) (NSF-95-27 proposal no. IBN-9652614) (Gerard W. Wall, PI). Special thanks to Mr. Jose Olivieri for

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R. Louis Baumhardt, W. N. Lipe, David Rayburn, and C. W. Wendt

Mild temperatures during late winter have caused early budbreak in grapes which resulted in freeze injury and significant crop losses in 1980 and 1988. Evaporative cooling of grapevines with microsprinklers when the air temperature exceeded 10 °C (50 °F) used 100 liters/min/hectare of treated grapes (11 gallons/min/acre) and delayed budbreak for a period of 7 to 10 days. Methods of reducing the amount of water used while not reducing the cooling were evaluated. The average hourly difference between wet and dry bud temperatures, measured with thermocouples, were summed during the system operation time and compared as a function of air temperature, wind speed, global radiation, and relative humidity limits. Limiting the cooling system operation time as a function of air temperature, wind speed, or global radiation reduced cooling efficiency by approximately a one to one ratio. Limiting system operation to humidities less than 60% reduced the amount of water used by 33%, with only a 9% reduction in cooling efficiency. By changing the wetting interval employed in this research from 25 seconds every three minutes to 25 seconds every four minutes, total water conservation would increase to 50% with insignificant changes in cooling efficiencies. These system modifications would reduce water application requirements to 50 liters/min/hectare of grapes (5.5 gallons/minute/acre).

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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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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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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.