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  • Author or Editor: C. D. Stanley x
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A study was conducted to determine the effect of water table depth on water use and tuber yields for subirrigated caladium (Caladium × hortulanum) production. A field-situated drainage lysimeter system was used to control water table depths at 30, 45 and 60 cm (11.8, 17.7, and 23.6 inches). Water use was estimated by accounting for water added or removed (after rain events) to maintain the desired water table depth treatments. In 1998, tuber weights, the number of Jumbo grade tubers, and the production index (tuber value index) of `White Christmas' were greater when plants were grown with the water table maintained at 30 or 45 cm compared to 60 cm. In 1999, tuber weights, the number of Mammoth grade tubers, and the production index, also were greater when plants were grown at water table depths of 30 or 45 cm compared to 60 cm. The average estimated daily water use was 6.6, 5.1, and 3.3 mm (0.26, 0.20, and 0.13 inch) for plants grown at water table depths of 30, 45, and 60 cm, respectively, indicating an inverse relationship with water table depth. While current water management practices in the caladium industry attempt to maintain a 60-cm water table, results from this study indicate that, for subirrigated caladium tuber production, the water table should be maintained in at 30 to 45 cm for maximum production on an organic soil.

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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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Concerns over the environmental impact and economics of harvesting sphagnum and reed-sedge peat have increased the desire to identify acceptable peat substitutes for use in container substrates. This preliminary study evaluated the use of composted dairy manure solids as a substitute for sphagnum or reed-sedge peat in container substrates for production of woody ornamental shrubs and assessed potential leaching of nutrients. Walter's viburnum (Viburnum obovatum), sandankwa viburnum (Viburnum suspensum), and japanese privet (Ligustrum japonicum) were grown in 3-gal plastic containers with seven substrates containing (by vol.) 60% pine bark, 10% sand, and 30% sphagnum peat (S), reed-sedge peat (R), and/or composted dairy manure solids (C). Substrate composition had no effect on plant quality ratings for any species, growth index (GI) of walter's viburnum, or shoot and root dry weight of walter's viburnum and japanese privet. However, the GI of japanese privet and sandankwa viburnum was the lowest when grown in substrates containing a high percentage of reed-sedge peat (0S:3R:0C). Substrate effects on average nitrate + nitrite nitrogen leachate losses were minimal over the 88-day leachate collection period. However, the substrate containing the highest proportions of composted dairy manure solids (0S:0R:3C) generally had the highest average ammonium nitrogen and dissolved reactive phosphorus losses compared with other substrates. All substrates tested as part of this study appeared to be commercially acceptable for production of container-grown woody ornamental shrub species based on growth and quality. However, average nutrient losses from containers differed depending on the peat or peat substitute used to formulate the substrates.

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Three vegetable irrigation systems, semi-closed subirrigation (seepage), fully enclosed subirrigation (seepage), and drip irrigation, were evaluated for use on sandy soils with naturally high water tables to determine comparative irrigation costs for tomato production. Investment, fixed (ownership), and variable (operating) costs were estimated for each irrigation system. The investment costs of the drip irrigation system were significantly greater than those for the semi-closed and fully enclosed irrigation systems. The variable costs, however, for the semi-closed system were considerably less than those for the fully enclosed and drip irrigation systems. The semi-closed irrigation system, therefore, was determined to be the least-cost tomato irrigation system under present fuel cost and nonlimiting water supply conditions.

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Combinations ofvarious vegetable crop species grown in multiple-cropping sequences using microirrigation on a sandy soil were evaluated for production potential and changes in normal cultural management An initial fall-season fresh-market tomato crop was followed immediately by a winter-season crucifer crop (cauliflower, broccoli, or cabbage), which was followed by a spring-season cucurbit crop (cucumber, zucchini squash, or muskmelon). Studies were conducted over a 3-year period in southwestem Florida. Results showed that when cropping sequences were compared on a basis of a derived relative value index (RVI), the sequence of tomato-cauliflower-zucchini squash significantly outperformed other sequences. Several management concerns particular to the production system (crop residue removal and interference, plastic mulch deterioration and damage, and weed control) were identified and discussed. The potential savings when cropping sequences are compared to individual crop production resulted in net savings (dollar savings less additional production costs) that ranged from $565 to $1212/acre ($1396 to $2993/ha) and $614 to $1316/acre ($1516 to $3251/ha) for the 1986-87 and 1988-89 seasons, respectively.

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The Florida horticulture industry (vegetables, ornamentals, citrus, and deciduous fruit), valued at $4.5 billion, has widely adopted microirrigation techniques to use water and fertilizer more efficiently. A broad array of microirrigation systems is available, and benefits of microirrigation go beyond water conservation. The potential for more-efficient agricultural chemical (pesticides and fertilizer) application is especially important in today's environmentally conscious society. Microirrigation is a tool providing growers with the power to better manage costly inputs, minimize environmental impact, and still produce high-quality products at a profit.

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