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- Author or Editor: Lorence R. Oki x
Conventional irrigation practices of cut-fl ower greenhouse crops may result in application of excess water, resulting in runoff which may pollute the environment and contaminate drinking water supplies. A computerized irrigation control system based on soil moisture tension, originally designed for potted plants, was adapted for use in cut flower production. Tensiometers equipped with a high-fl ow ceramic tip and pressure transducers were effective in monitoring the soil moisture in the root zone of plants grown in ground beds and responded to rapid changes in soil moisture. The irrigation control system using these sensors, a computer, and custom-written software continuously monitored the moisture condition of the soil, initiated irrigation when the soil dried to a specific level, and turned off the water when an adequate amount was applied. When the system was installed in a greenhouse producing roses, water use decreased while productivity (stems harvested/m2) and stem length increased substantially. The observed increases in productivity and quality can result in significant increases in profitability for commercial rose producers.
Available water for urban landscape irrigation is likely to become more limited because of inadequate precipitation and the ever-increasing water demand of a growing population. Recent droughts in the western United States have also increased the demand for low-water-use landscapes in urban areas. Penstemon species (beardtongues) are ornamental perennials commonly grown in low-water-use landscapes, but their drought tolerance has not been widely investigated. The objectives of this study were to determine the effects of water availability on the morphology, physiology, and canopy temperature of Penstemon barbatus (Cav.) Roth ‘Novapenblu’ (Rock Candy Blue® penstemon), P. digitalis Nutt. ex Sims ‘TNPENDB’ (Dakota™ Burgundy beardtongue), P. ×mexicali Mitch. ‘P007S’ (Pikes Peak Purple® penstemon), and P. strictus Benth. (Rocky Mountain penstemon). Twenty-four plants of each penstemon species were randomly assigned to blocks in an automated irrigation system, and the substrate volumetric water content was maintained at 0.15 or 0.35 m3⋅m−3 for 50 days. The decreased substrate volumetric water content resulted in a decreased aesthetic appearance of the four penstemon species because of the increased numbers of visibly wilted leaves and chlorosis. Plant growth index [(height + (width 1 + width 2)/2)/2], shoot number, shoot dry weight, leaf size, and total leaf area also decreased as the substrate volumetric water content decreased, but the root-to-shoot ratio and leaf thickness increased. Photosynthesis decreased, stomatal resistance increased, and warmer canopy temperatures were observed when plants were dehydrated. Additionally, as substrate volumetric water content decreased, the leaf reflectance of P. barbatus and P. strictus increased. Penstemon digitalis, which had the highest canopy–air temperature difference, was sensitive to drought stress, exhibiting a large proportion of visibly wilted leaves. Penstemon ×mexicali, which had the lowest root-to-shoot ratio, had the lowest shoot water content of the species studied and more than 65% of leaves visibly wilted when experiencing drought stress. Penstemon barbatus and P. strictus, native to arid regions, exhibited lower canopy–air temperature differences and better aesthetic quality than the other two species. Under the conditions of this study, Penstemon barbatus and P. strictus exhibited better drought tolerance than P. digitalis and P. ×mexicali.
Garlic (Allium sativum) is a commercially and culturally important crop worldwide. Despite the importance of garlic, there have been few studies investigating how garlic growth and development will be affected by the atmospheric enrichment of carbon dioxide (CO2). A split-plot experiment with CO2 concentrations as main plot and nitrogen (N) fertilization as subplot was carried out to examine the effects of elevated CO2 at (mean ± sd) 745 ± 63 µmol·mol−1 across three levels of N: high-N (16.0 mm), mid-N (4.0 mm), and low-N (1.0 mm). Three hypotheses were tested: 1) garlic plants will allocate proportionally more biomass to bulb when grown in elevated CO2 compared with the plants grown in ambient CO2; 2) plants will sustain improved photosynthesis without downregulation in elevated CO2, irrespective of N; and 3) elevated CO2 will improve plant water use efficiency (WUE) across N fertilization levels. We found that proportional biomass allocation to bulb was not significantly enhanced by CO2 enrichment in garlic. Overall biomass accumulation represented by leaf, stem, and bulb did not respond significantly to CO2 enrichment but responded strongly to N treatments (P < 0.001). Contrary to our hypothesis, photosynthetic downregulation was apparent for garlic plants grown in elevated CO2 with a decrease in Rubisco capacity (P < 0.01). Instantaneous leaf WUE improved in response to elevated CO2 (P < 0.001) and also with increasing N fertilization (P < 0.001). Finally, our results indicate that bulbing ratio is likely to remain unchanged with CO2 or N levels and may continue to serve as a useful nondesctructive metric to estimate harvest timing and bulb size.
University of California (UC) researchers have been involved in research and extension pertaining to measuring evapotranspiration (ET) rates and determining the minimum irrigation requirements of landscape plants for more than 30 years. Early work included the design and implementation of the California Irrigation Management Information System (CIMIS) weather station network and determining crop coefficients for warm and cool season turfgrasses based on historical ET and CIMIS data. Other researchers determined the minimum irrigation requirements for several species of established landscape trees, shrubs, and groundcovers in diverse climate zones throughout the state. In addition, the Water Use Classification of Landscape Species (WUCOLS) system was developed by UC personnel in the early 1990s which, to date, has classified more than 3500 landscape species into very low, low, moderate, and high water-use categories based on observation and personal experience by industry experts and UC personnel. Future work in the area of landscape water use and conservation will include updating WUCOLS as more data from replicated trials become available. New research at UC Riverside aims to improve irrigation efficiency (IE) through precision irrigation using smart controllers, remote sensing, and geospatial analysis under controlled conditions. Irrigation training and certification for public and private landscape managers must remain a priority because, even with advanced smart controller technologies, water savings will not occur with poorly designed and functioning irrigation systems.
Potted poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) is an important commercial commodity for the U.S. floriculture industry. The production of poinsettia demands intensively managed light control, heat, fertilizer, and water; inhibiting elongation with plant growth regulators, and protecting plants from diseases and pests with pesticide applications. Excessive irrigation creates pollution, promotes disease, and is expensive. Sensor-based control systems can optimize irrigation schedules. Irrigation management is crucial in nursery production of poinsettias because water is a limited resource and agricultural runoff is monitored in many states across the United States. By pairing environmental sensors with sensors that continuously monitor plant transpiration, we can determine how plant water use and water stress fluctuate with environmental and physiological demands. We hypothesized that continual measurements of sap flow could be correlated with environmental sensors to develop a new water stress index (WSI), which can deliver the benefits of detecting water stress that might affect the quality of potted poinsettias. To test this hypothesis, rooted cuttings of poinsettia (E. pulcherrima cv. Prestige Red) were individually potted into twelve 11-L black plastic nursery pots. Potted plants were grown in a naturally illuminated temperature-controlled glasshouse. The 12 plants were randomly assigned one of three watering treatments: weekly, biweekly, and triweekly irrigation. From the data collected, we were able to create a WSI that correlated available soil moisture with the difference between the expected transpiration with actual transpiration rates. Our results suggest that the plants in the weekly treatment group did not experience water stress until 0.3 m3·m–3 volume water content indicated by <0.2 WSI. These results support previous research that found 0.1 to 0.3 m3·m–3 can be stressful soil moisture conditions for greenhouse-grown crops. Results also show that for substrates with similar substrates that irrigation set points can be reduced to 0.2 m3·m–3 for improved irrigation efficiency.