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R.M. Coolman and G.D. Hoyt

The physical characteristics of a particular soil affect its suitability for reduced tillage. Vegetable crops managed with reduced tillage generally will increase crop yields as drainage improves. Under reduced tillage, advantages over conventional tillage include better control of soil erosion, enhanced crop yields, soil water conservation, and more-efficient use of fossil fuel-based nonrenewable resources. Disadvantages with reduced tillage may include reduced soil temperature and increased soil moisture contents in udic soil moisture regimes, which can decrease crop yields.

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Tracy Dougher, Toby Day, Paul Johnson, Kelly Kopp, and Mark Majerus

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.

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ALLEN G. SMAJSTRLA

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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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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ALLEN G. SMAJSTRLA

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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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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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.