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  • Author or Editor: Catherine K. Singer x
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Mulches applied to landscape surfaces can moderate soil temperatures by changing the surface heat energy balance and conserve soil water by reducing evaporation rates. In the Southwest, decomposing granite is commonly used as landscape mulch. However, organic mulches, such as pine residue mulch and shredded tree trimmings, are becoming more available as industry by-products. Recent impetus toward water conservation and recycling forest and urban tree waste into urban landscapes has increased the need to better understand how such mulch types effect the temperature, moisture. and light quality of drip-irrigated landscapes typically found in the Southwest. We compared effects of three mulches, two organic (composted ponderosa pine residue and shredded urban tree trimmings) and one inorganic (Red Mountain Coral decomposing granite), turf grass, and bare soil applied to 14 drip-irrigated landscape research plots on below-ground soil temperatures at depths of 5 cm and 30 cm, temperatures at the mulch-soil interface, mulch surface temperatures, diel mulch surface net radiation, and albedo. Below-ground soil temperatures were more buffered by organic mulches, and mulch-soil interface temperatures were lower under organic mulch than inorganic mulches. Inorganic mulch daytime surface temperatures were lower than organic mulch surface temperatures. Nighttime net radiation values were less negative over organic mulches than inorganic mulches and albedo was significantly higher for the inorganic mulch and bare soil treatments. These results provide evidence to show that organic surface mulches have higher resistances to heat transfer than inorganic mulches, which could improve landscape plant water and nutrient use efficiencies by lowering high summer root zone temperatures.

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