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  • Author or Editor: Tyler C. Hoskins x
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Maximizing nutrient use efficiency while minimizing nutrient leaching and non-point source contributions from containerized crop production systems are goals of researchers and growers. These goals have led to irrigation and crop nutrition management practices that reduce fertilizer and irrigation expenditures and reduce the nutrient load into the environment. However, one area that has received little attention, and may lead to the further refinement of crop management practices, is how dissolved nutrients (solutes) move through a substrate while water is being applied during irrigation. A study was conducted to characterize the effect of a controlled-release fertilizer (CRF) placement method on changes in leachate nutrient concentration throughout an irrigation event and to evaluate these changes at different times throughout a production season. A pine bark:sand (9:1, by volume) substrate was placed in 2.7-L nursery containers (fallow) and was treated with topdressed, incorporated, and dibbled CRF or did not receive CRF. The nutrient leaching pattern was evaluated at 3, 9, and 15 weeks after potting (WAP). Leachate nutrient concentration was the highest in the first 50 mL of effluent and steadily diminished as irrigation continued for the topdressed, incorporated, and the no CRF treatments. Effluent nutrient concentration from containers with dibbled CRF generally increased throughout the first 150 mL of effluent, plateaued briefly, and then diminished. The nutrient load that leached with higher volumes of irrigation water was similar between incorporated and dibbled CRF placements. However, the unique nutrient leaching pattern observed with the dibbled CRF placement method allowed for a lower effluent nutrient load when leaching fractions are low. Dibble may be an advantageous CRF placement method that allows for the conservation of expensive fertilizer resources and mitigates non-point source nutrient contributions by reducing undesired nutrient leaching during irrigation.

Free access

Regulatory and economic incentives to improve water and fertilizer use efficiency have prompted the nursery industry to seek new and advanced techniques for managing the production of ornamental crops. The development of best management practices, especially with regard to fertilizer and irrigation management, is largely based on research that looks at season-long trends in water and nutrient use. Understanding how water moves through a substrate during a single irrigation event may allow for the refinement of recommended best management practices that improve water and fertilizer use efficiency in container-grown plant production systems. Therefore, a study was conducted to characterize the movement of irrigation water at three growth stages [4, 9, and 17 weeks after transplanting (WAT)] throughout the production cycle of Ilex crenata Thunb. ‘Bennett’s Compactum’ that were container-grown in a bark-based substrate alongside fallow (i.e., without a plant) containers. Tensiometers were placed at three horizontal insertion depths and three vertical heights throughout the substrate profile to detect changes in matric potential (ψ; kPa), during individual irrigations. At 4 WAT, the pre-irrigation ψ in the upper substrate profile was 12.3 times more negative (i.e., drier) than the substrate near the container’s base and 6.0 times more negative than the middle of the container. This gradient was decreased at 9 and 17 WAT as roots grew into the lower portion of the substrate profile. On average, water began to drain from the base of containers 59.9 s ± 1.0 se and 35.7 s ± 1.3 se after irrigation commencement for fallow containers and plant-containing treatments, respectively, indicating channeling through the substrate of plant-containing treatments. A pattern of plant water uptake by roots induced a gradient in the substrate’s pre-irrigation moisture distribution, where portions of the substrate profile were relatively dry where plant roots had taken up water. Consequently, the application of water or fertilizer (i.e., fertigation) through irrigation has the potential to be highly inefficient if applied under dry substrate conditions where channeling may occur. Therefore, water application using cyclic irrigation or substrate moisture content (MC) thresholds (not letting MC fall below an undetermined threshold where channeling may occur) may improve water application efficiency. Furthermore, fertigation should occur when the substrate MC in the upper portion of the container is higher than the pre-irrigation MCs observed in this study to minimize the occurrence of channeling. The effect of root growth should also be taken into account when seeking the proper balance between pre-irrigation substrate MC and irrigation application rate to reduce the risk of unwanted channeling.

Free access

Common lilac is an important flowering shrub that accounts for ≈$20 million of sales in the U.S. nursery industry. Cultivar improvement in common lilac has been ongoing for centuries, yet little research has focused on shortening the multiple-year juvenility period for lilacs and the subsequent time required between breeding cycles. The practice of direct-sowing of immature “green” seed has been shown to reduce juvenility in some woody plants, but it has not been reported for common lilac. This study investigated the effects of seed maturity [weeks after pollination (WAP)], pregermination seed treatment (direct-sown vs. cold-stratified), and postgermination seedling chilling on the germination percentage, subsequent plant growth, and time to flower on lilac seedlings. All seedlings were derived from the female parent ‘Ludwig Spaeth’ and the male parent ‘Angel White’. Seeds harvested at 15 and 20 WAP resulted in 58% (sd ± 9.9%) and 80% (sd ± 9.0%) germination, respectively, which were similar to that of dry seed collected at 20 WAP with stratification (62% ± 4.2%). Seedlings from the green seed collected at 15 and 20 WAP were also approximately three-times taller than those of dry seed groups DS1, DS2, and DS3 after the first growing season. Over the next two growing seasons, there were no differences in seedling height across all treatments. Flowering occurred at the beginning of the fourth season and without differences among treatments. These results indicate that the collection and direct sowing of immature, green seed can be used to successfully grow lilac seedlings, but that they do not reduce the juvenility period. However, this method can provide more vegetative growth in year one to observe early vegetative traits such as leaf color, and it can provide more material for DNA extraction to support molecular research.

Open Access