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  • Author or Editor: Layla J. Dunlap x
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Water conservation in nursery systems is an ever-increasing focus, yet there is relatively little guidance for growers producing seedlings intended for restoration regarding how practices such as subirrigation influence plant growth in the nursery and after outplanting. Our study investigated red-flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum Pursh) seedling development and early field performance using different fertilizer treatments under a subirrigation regime. Plants were fertilized with 1) incorporated organic fertilizer, 2) incorporated controlled-release fertilizer, 3) top-dressed controlled-release fertilizer, or 4) water-soluble fertilizer. We found that seedlings grown with organic fertilizer used significantly less water than all other treatments. Media electrical conductivity (EC) levels were significantly greater in the organic fertilizer treatment, and EC values in the top portion of the media were significantly greater than the middle or bottom portions for all fertilizer treatments. The remaining subirrigation water at the end of 22 weeks held 17% of applied nitrogen (N) from the water-soluble fertilizer treatment and less than 1% of applied N from the other fertilizer treatments. We observed no differences in plant morphology among fertilizer treatments. Seedlings were subsequently out-planted into low- and high-competition treatments, where myriad factors indicated reduced growth among high-competition compared with low-competition plots, highlighting that competition for soil water limited seedling performance. These results indicate that a variety of fertilizers can be used to grow red-flowering currant under subirrigation and that postplanting growth is enhanced with control of competing vegetation.

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