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- Author or Editor: Robert R. Milks x
Moisture retention data were collected for five porous materials: soil, phenolic foam, and three combinations of commonly used media components. Two mathematical functions were evaluated for their ability to describe the water content–soil moisture relationship. A cubic polynomial function with linear parameters previously used on container media was compared to a closed-form nonlinear parameter model developed to describe water conductivity in mineral soils. In most tests for precision, adequacy, accuracy, and validation, the nonlinear function was superior to the simpler power series. The nonlinear function provides an excellent tool for describing the water content for media with widely varying physical properties.
Handling and preparing growing media can have pronounced effects on the “intensity variables” bulk density and equilibrium volume wetness through changes in pore size distribution. These changes in turn affect the container “capacity variables”: the absolute amounts of medium, air, and water in a container. A nonlinear moisture retention function was combined with container geometry in an equilibrium capacity variable (ECV) model that provided accurate predictions of total porosity, container capacity, air space, unavailable water, available water, and solid fraction for several container-medium combinations.
Plants grown in small containers often show limited growth due to low levels of aeration and water holding capacity in the medium. These levels can be changed by management practices such as medium compaction, medium wetness at time of container filling, container height and volume, peat : vermiculite ratio, particle size, and the use of a wetting agent. A modified equilibrium capacity variable model was applied to an investigation of media-container interactions for short containers (<5 cm tall). Predicted volume percentages for total porosity (TP), container capacity (CC), air space (AS), unavailable water (UW), and available water (AW) were developed from measured moisture retention data and container geometry. AS increased with: 1) increased particle size, 2) increased media moisture at time of container filling, 3) decreased medium compaction, 4) increased wetting agent concentration, 5) decreased ratio of peat : vermiculite, and 6) increased container height. Increased percent AW resulted from smaller particle size, increased media moisture at time of container filling, decreased container compaction, decreased wetting agent concentration, increased ratio of peat : vermiculite and decreased container height.