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  • Author or Editor: P. Chris Wilson x
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Nitrate-nitrogen (N) losses in surface drainage and runoff water from ornamental plant production areas can be considerable. In N-limited watersheds, discharge of N from production areas can have negative impacts on nontarget aquatic systems. This study monitored nitrate-N concentrations in production area drainage water originating from a foliage plant production area. Concentrations in drainage water were monitored during the transition from 100% reliance on fertigation using urea and nitrate-based soluble formulations (SF) to a nitrate-based controlled-release formulation (CRF). During the SF use period, nitrate-N concentrations ranged from 0.5 to 322.0 mg·L−1 with a median concentration of 31.2 mg·L−1. Conversely, nitrate-N concentrations during the controlled-release fertilization program ranged from 0 to 147.9 mg·L−1 with a median concentration of 0.9 mg·L−1. This project demonstrates that nitrate-N concentrations in drainage water during the CRF program were reduced by 94% to 97% at the 10th through 95th percentiles relative to the SF fertilization program. Nitrate-N concentrations in drainage water from foliage plant production areas can be reduced by using CRF fertilizer formulations relative to SF formulations/fertigation. Similar results should be expected for other similar containerized crops. Managers located within N-limited watersheds facing N water quality regulations should consider the use of CRF fertilizer formulations as a potential tool (in addition to appropriate application rates and irrigation management) for reducing production impacts on water quality.

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Sources of irrigation water in South Florida typically contain high levels of dissolved carbonates and bicarbonates. Repeated application of high alkalinity water can cause substrate-solution pH to rise, thereby altering nutrient availability, and possibly leading to the development of nutrient disorders and a reduction in plant growth. The objectives of the current study were to determine the effects of neutralizing alkalinity of irrigation water on the nutritional status and growth of Thryallis (Galphimia glauca Cav.). Plants were grown in 11.4-L containers in a 5 peat: 4 pine bark: 1sand (v:v:v) mix. Treatments were prepared with water collected from a commercial nursery with inherent calcium carbonate levels in excess of 260 mg·L-1 and pH above 7.3. Treatments consisted of 0% (control), 40%, or 80% alkalinity neutralized with sulfuric acid. At harvest, 51 weeks after initiating treatments, foliar levels of Fe were 28% greater, Mn 55% greater, and Zn 27% greater in the 80% than 0% neutralized alkalinity treatment. Growth indices and leaf greenness averaged over the course of the study were significantly greater in the 40% than in the 0% or 80% alkalinity neutralized treatments. Over the course of the study, leachate pH averaged 7.5, 6.8, and 5.3; and electrical conductivity (EC) averaged 1.4, 1.9, and 2.2 dS·m-1 in the 0%, 40%, and 80% alkalinity neutralized treatments, respectively.

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Invasive species have disrupted thousands of acres of natural areas in Florida and appear to have a physiological competitive advantage over native species. The influence of light and temperature on germination was determined for the invasive Mexican petunia (Ruellia tweediana Griseb.) and native wild petunia (Ruellia caroliniensis Steud.). Seeds were collected and germinated in incubators with light or darkness at 15, 24, 33, and 30/20 °C. Light increased germination for each species, except at 15 °C (R. caroliniensis). For R. caroliniensis, highest germination (86% to 94%) occurred at 33 °C and 30/20 °C. Highest germination of R. tweediana (98% to 100%) occurred at 30/20 °C. Studies also were initiated to determine if R. tweediana has a competitive advantage over the native species when grown under wet and dry substrate conditions. Growth and development measurements after 8 weeks under controlled conditions revealed that R. tweediana grown in wet conditions had the greatest dry weight increase as compared to other treatments. Ruellia caroliniensis had higher specific leaf area when grown in wet or dry conditions, as compared to R. tweediana. Throughout the experiment, net CO2 assimilation of R. caroliniensis grown under dry or wet conditions was consistently lower than that of R. tweediana. Shoot nitrogen and phosphorus use efficiencies were generally greatest for R. tweediana plants grown in wet conditions. For shoot nutrient content, significant species × moisture interactions occurred for measured phosphorus (P) and calcium (Ca). When grown in wet conditions, R. tweediana had less shoot P and Ca as compared to dry conditions. For root nutrient content, species × moisture interactions were insignificant for each measured nutrient, with the exception of potassium (K). Potassium use efficiency of R. tweediana roots grown in wet conditions was higher than that of R. tweediana grown in dry conditions and R. caroliniensis grown in wet conditions.

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Liming agents (LAs) in irrigation water, typically associated with carbonates and bicarbonates of calcium (Ca) and magnesium (Mg), contribute to water alkalinity. Repeated application of LA to container crops can cause media-solution pH to rise overtime, that uncorrected, can lead to a nutrient availability imbalance that may be suboptimal for plant-growth due to nutrient disorder(s). To correct high levels of LA in irrigation water, growers can inject acid into their irrigation system to neutralize alkalinity. Therefore, a 52-week study was conducted using irrigation water, substrate, and plants from a commercial nursery in Florida that has a history of poor water quality and plant production problems related to high alkalinity irrigation water. The objectives of the study were to assess substrate pH, electrical conductivity (EC), and nutrients, and plant nutrition and growth for thyrallis (Galphimia gracilis Bartl.) to irrigation water acidification. Treatments consisted of irrigation water acidified with sulfuric acid (H2SO4) to neutralize 0% (control), 40%, or 80% of calcium carbonates (CaCO3) yielding a CaCO3 (meq·L−1)/pH levels of 5 [High Alkalinity (H-A)]/7.37, 3 [Medium Alkalinity (M-A)]//6.37, and 1 [Low Alkalinity (L-A)]//4.79, respectively. Substrate analysis by the 1:2 dilution method at the end of the study was significant (P < 0.05) for pH 6.2, 5.2, and 4.7 for the H-A, M-A, and L-A treatments, respectively, and for nutrients Ca, Mn, and Zn. Foliar nutrient levels were statistically significant (P < 0.05) for alkalinity treatment for Fe, K, Mn, P, and Zn. Alkalinity treatment was significant (P < 0.05) for growth, leaf greenness (by SPAD), and quality (by survey) with the M-A treatment producing more biomass, having greener leaves, and the highest aesthetic quality value than the H-A or L-A treatments. A qualitative survey of root systems at harvest showed that the M-A and L-A treatment root systems were greater than the H-A treatment based on visual side-wall root development. These data demonstrate that irrigation water acidification does alter substrate pH and nutrients and plant tissue nutrient levels and growth over a long-term production cycle typical for nursery crops.

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