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Dustin P. Meador and Paul R. Fisher

The objective was to quantify the effect of water-soluble fertilizers on concentration of free chlorine level in a sodium hypochlorite solution. Research on the disinfestation strength and phytotoxicity risk of chlorine compounds is needed, because control of waterborne pathogens has been based on response to free chlorine, whereas dual injection of fertilizer and chlorine is a common horticultural practice. Free chlorine from sodium hypochlorite was applied at 2.6 mg·L−1 chlorine (Cl) to deionized water only (control) or deionized water with 11 nutrient solutions at 200 mg·L−1 nitrogen (N). Nutrient solutions included reagent-grade ammonium sulfate (NH4)2SO4, ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3), potassium nitrate (KNO3), and urea salts and seven commercial blended N–P–K water-soluble fertilizers that contained both macro- and micronutrients. Commercial fertilizers contained ammonium-N at 0% to 50% of total-N, urea-N at 0% to 14% of total-N, and nitrate-N at 50% to 93% of total-N. Free Cl (mg·L−1), total Cl (mg·L−1), and oxidation-reduction potential (ORP, in mV) were measured 2 min and 60 min after Cl was applied. Combined Cl was calculated as the difference between the total and free Cl measurements. All solutions were maintained at pH 6 and 25 °C. In the control solution, free Cl was 2.6 mg·L−1 after 2 minutes and decreased to 2.2 mg·L−1 after 60 minutes. The ammonium-containing solutions (NH4)2SO4 and NH4NO3 resulted in free Cl below 0.1 mg·L−1 after 2 minutes. Urea reacted more slowly than ammonium salts, whereby free Cl decreased to 2.3 mg·L−1 after 2 minutes and 0.4 mg·L−1 after 60 minutes. In contrast, KNO3 had less impact on free Cl with 2.4 mg·L−1 free Cl available at both 2 minutes and 60 minutes. With all commercial fertilizers tested, free Cl decreased after 2 minutes to below 0.1 mg·L−1. Total Cl remained above 2 mg·L−1 after 60 minutes in all treatments, indicating that the majority of Cl was in a combined form for ammonium and urea salts and commercial fertilizers. The ORP of commercial fertilizer blends and ammonium-containing salts was lower than 600 mV, whereas deionized water, KNO3, and urea treatments had ORP levels above 650 mV. Nutrient solutions containing ammonium or urea required 20 mg·L−1 or more of applied Cl to provide residual free Cl above 2 mg·L−1 at 2 minutes.

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Dustin P. Meador, Paul R. Fisher, Philip F. Harmon, Natalia A. Peres, Max Teplitski and Charles L. Guy

The objective was to analyze the physical, chemical, and biological water quality in horticulture irrigation systems in 24 ornamental plant greenhouses and nurseries in the United States. At each greenhouse or nursery, water was collected from up to five points (“Sample Types”) which included 1) “Source” from municipal or private well supplies, 2) “Tank” from enclosed storage containers, 3) “Subirrigation” from water applied to crops in ebb-and-flood systems, 4) “Furthest Outlet” that were irrigation emitters most distant from the Source, and 5) “Catchment Basin” from open outdoor retention areas. On average, Source water had the highest physical and microbial quality of Sample Types including the highest ultraviolet (UV) light transmission at 86%, lowest total suspended solids (TSS) at 3.1 mg·L−1, and lowest density of aerobic bacteria with 1108 cfu/mL of water. Average quality of recycled water from Subirrigation or Catchment Basins did not meet recommended levels for horticultural irrigation water for UV transmission (68% to 72% compared with recommended 75%), microbial counts (>100,000 cfu/mL compared with recommended <10,000 cfu/mL), and chemical oxygen demand (COD) (48.2 to 61.3 mg·L−1 compared with recommended <30 mg·L−1). Irrigation water stored in Tanks or applied at Furthest Outlets had lower physical and biological water quality compared with Source water. Level of aerobic bacteria counts highlighted a risk of clogged microirrigation emitters from microbial contaminants, with highest bacteria levels in recirculated irrigation water. The physical, chemical, and microbial water quality results indicate a need for more effective water treatment to improve biological water quality, particularly with recirculated irrigation.