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Jennifer L. Boatright and J. M. Zajicek

Hydrogel (Hydrosource™, Western Polyacrylamide, Inc.) was incorporated into 102 cm × 122 cm landscape beds at 25, 50, 75, or 100 lbs per 1000 sq ft. Weed barrier and 2 cm of pine bark mulch were added to the top of each bed. Controls consisted of 1) no hydrogel with weed barrier and mulch and 2) no hydrogel with mulch but no weed barrier. Each treatment was replicated four times with ten plants of petunia, marigold, and vinca planted per bed, for a total of forty plants of each species per treatment. Flower number of vinca and petunia increased with hydrogel incorporation, 75 lbs of hydrogel having the greatest number of flowers. Petunia also had higher visual ratings with increased hydrogel rates. Soil temperatures directly under the mulch and 10 cm below the mulch, at 1400 hr, were 49C and 40C respectively for controls, compared to 42C and 36C for beds with hydrogel.

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Jennifer L. Boatright, J.M. Zajicek, and W.A. Mackay

A study was conducted to test the ability of hydrophilic polymers to retain moisture in annual bedding plant beds in addition to reducing NO3 and NH4 leaching. Petunia plants were transplanted into raised concrete benches containing a drainage pipe that allowed for excess leachate to be collected. Beds that were treated with 0 or 366 g·m–2 of hydrogel and 0 or 186 g of ai N. Watering of beds followed a strict irrigation schedule and soil moisture was monitored daily. At termination, plant dry weight was measured and analyses of plant tissue and leachate were conducted for NO3 and NH4 concentrations. Results from this study demonstrated that, under suboptimal conditions of minimal irrigation and fertilization, polymer incorporation had a significant effect on water, NH4, and NO3 retention in soils. Water leaching was decreased by 17%; NH4 retention was increased by 83%; and NO3 retention, where additional N was added, was increased by 64% due to polymer incorporation. In addition, a 47% reduction in NO3 concentration of water leachate was detected when polymer was incorporated under minimal fertilization. Growth or N levels of petunia were not significantly affected by polymer incorporation.

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Jennifer L. Boatright, J.M. Zajicek, and W.A. Mackay

Two experiments were conducted in which a polyacrylamide gel (Hydrosource, Western Polyacrylamide) was incorporated into 56 × 38-cm, raised, concrete beds, 20 cm deep, with a drain pipe in the center of each bed. In Expt. 1, treatments included (in grams of i.a. N) 0, 186, 372, or 558 plus 0 or 366 g hydrogel/m2, for a total of eight treatments. Each treatment was replicated three times. Petunia plants were transplanted into each plot for a total of 30 plants per treatment. Plants were kept well watered. Polymer incorporation had no effect on soil water retention, soil NO3 or NH4 retention, or plant growth. Expt. 2 included treatments of 0 or 186 g of ai N and 0 or 366 g hydrogel/m2. Each treatment was replicated six times with 10 plants per replication, resulting in a total of 60 plants per treatment. Minimal irrigation was imposed on treatments. This study demonstrated that under suboptimal conditions of minimal irrigation and fertilization, polymer incorporation significantly increased soil moisture (17%), NH4 retention (83%), and NO3 retention where additional N was added (64%) compared to soils without polymer.