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  • Author or Editor: Sh. Medina x
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Rose (Rosa sp.) plants (`Mercedes') were grown in yellow tuff (YT) (volcanic ash, scoria) and pumice from Italy (PI) and Greece (PG) for which physical and hydraulic characteristics were determined. The differences among the measured retention curves of these materials result in significant differences among their relative hydraulic conductivity functions. The hydraulic conductivity of YT is much higher than that of PI, which is higher than that of PG. The plants were subjected to optimal growth and nutrition conditions. Irrigation was controlled using electronic tensiometers, at suction values well within the range of easily available water: 13 cm for YT and 8 cm for the two pumice types. Nonetheless, yields were significantly higher in YT than in PI; yields were even lower in PG. We suggest that the limiting factor was the dynamic water availability to the plants, which is affected mainly by the unsaturated hydraulic conductivity. The relative hydraulic conductivity of YT at 13 cm is more than an order of magnitude higher than that of PI at 8 cm. The relative hydraulic conductivity of PG at 8 cm is two orders of magnitude lower than that of YT at 13 cm. It seems that the current concept of easily available water, based on a predetermined suction range, independent of the hydraulic characteristics of the media, is not an appropriate parameter for irrigation management in soilless culture. The unsaturated hydraulic conductivity, being a characteristic function of the medium and highly sensitive to moisture variation, indicates better the actual availability of water to the roots. Therefore, it should be used for irrigation control in containers filled with porous substrates.

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