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The levels of hydration of several hydrophilic polymers (hydrogels) varied greatly. Starch-based polymers had the fastest rate of hydration (<2 hours), followed by a propenoate-propenamide copolymer. Polyacrylamide materials required 4 to 8 hours to become fully hydrated. Maximum water retention in distilled water varied from 400 to 57 g of water per gram of dry material. All hydrogels retained less water in the presence of metal ions or fertilizers in the soaking solution, with substances releasing Fe+2 being the most detrimental. After exposure to fertilizers and ions, the water-holding capacity of a polyacrylamide with a high degree of cross linkage, but not that of hydrogels of the other structures, was fully recovered by subsequently soaking in distilled water. Pots amended with a polyacrylamide polymer but without Micromax (a micronutrient source) reached maximum water retention after six irrigations, while those with Micromax required 10 irrigations to reach peak water retention. The amounts of water being held in pots decreased after repeated fertilization. Medium volume increased with increasing levels of the polyacrylamide Supersorb C (0, 2, 4, or 6 g/pot). Micromax incorporated in medium amended with Supersorb C caused a depression in volume. Medium bulk density, total water retention, and water retention per unit volume of medium were increased by the incorporation of the hydrogel, regardless of the presence of Micromax. Noncapillary porosity measured at container capacity in medium amended with Micromax progressively decreased as the amount of hydrogel increased, but remained unchanged in medium without Micromax. Repeated drying and dehydration of the medium resulted in reduced water retention and increased noncapillary pore space.

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There has been recent speculation in trade journals that landscape fabrics, while doing an excellent job of weed control, may have a detrimental effect on ornamental plant growth. A study is in progress to investigate the manner in which hardwood mulch and applied landscape fabric affect soil temperature, soil aeration, and water content over 18 months. Two experiments are in progress, one with compost incorporated at 50% soil volume, the other with no compost incorporation. The experimental design is a randomized complete block with four treatments (mulch, fabric, fabric plus mulch, and control) and four plants per plot. Each plot has been planted with herbaceous perennials so as to allow analysis of treatment effects on plant growth. Soil temperature within plots is monitored on a continual basis. Soil aeration is measured every two weeks using installed oxygen tubes. Water content is measured using time domain reflectometry 24 and 48 h after a significant rainfall event. Preliminary results suggest that hardwood mulch and landscape fabric are similar in their effect on soil water content 0 to 48 h after a significant rainfall event. However, after 48 h, hardwood mulch increases soil water retention compared to landscape fabric.

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Abstract

Concentrations of soluble solids (SSC) in fruits of Cucumis melo L., cv. PMR 45, were positively correlated with 2 physical measures of soil samples from producing fields: a) the degree of cracking which occurred during dehydration, and b) the rapidity with which water or a CaSC>4 solution percolated the soils. Very low SSC was associated with sandy, non-cracking soils, which in addition permitted only low rates of percolation. Low SSC also was found to be associated with soils having subsurface hardpans or dense subsoil strata, and also with the distance to lower bounds of plant containers and experimentally placed barriers which obstructed downward root growth. SSC, under adverse conditions, varied further as a function of fruit numbers per plant.

Open Access

Seedlings of Catharanthus roseus (L.) G. Don `Pacifica Red' were transplanted into substrates composed of either 80% sphagnum peat or coir with the remaining volume being perlite, sand, or vermiculite. The six substrates were inoculated with Pythium irregulare Buisman at 0 or 50,000 oospores per 10-cm container. The containers were irrigated daily to maintain moisture levels near container capacity. No visually apparent symptoms of infection or significant differences in shoot and root fresh and dry weights were observed among the uninoculated substrates and the inoculated coir substrates. Inoculated peat substrates had an 80% infection rate and significantly reduced shoot and root fresh and dry weights as compared to uninoculated substrates. Seedlings of C. roseus were transplanted into pasteurized and unpasteurized substrates composed of 80% (v/v) coir or sphagnum peat with the remaining 20% being perlite. Substrates were inoculated with 0, 5000, or 20,000 oospores of P. irregulare per 10-cm container. No visually apparent symptoms of infection or significant differences in shoot and root fresh and dry weights were observed among the uninoculated substrates and the inoculated pasteurized coir. The inoculated pasteurized peat substrate, inoculated unpasteurized peat substrate, and the inoculated unpasteurized coir substrate grown plants had an 88% infection and a significant reduction in the shoot and root fresh and dry weights.

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Abstract

‘Tifblue’ rabbiteye blueberry (Vaccinium ashei Reade) plants were grown for 3 years under a sodic irrigation regimen. Mulched and non-mulched plants were irrigated by one of three methods: one drip emitter at the base of the plant, two drip emitters on either side of the plant, or low-volume spray emitter (LVSE). There was a mulch × irrigation treatment interaction. Mulch increased the growth of drip-irrigated plants but not LVSE-irrigated plants. Salt-induced leaf chlorosis and necrosis was only evident on plants with no mulch and irrigated with two emitters. Under mulched soil, K, Na, Mg, Cl, electrical conductivity (ECe), and Na adsorption ratio (SAR) levels were several times lower and uniform throughout the soil profile compared to the non-mulched treatments. Maximum root-zone salinity was 3.7 dS·m−1 for two emitters without mulch and a minimum of 0.5 dS·m−1 for one emitter with mulch.

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Abstract

Physical characteristics were determined for 5 potting media composed of varying ratios of Florida sedge peat and pine bark subjected to compaction pressures of 0.0, 0.1, 0.2, or 0.3 kg/cm2. Percent noncapillary pore space decreased as compaction pressure and amount of peat in the mixture increased, while water holding capacity by volume increased with peat addition and compaction pressure. Top growth of Pilea pubescens ‘Silver Tree’ in compacted media was generally as good as in noncompacted media, but root growth was restricted.

Open Access

The Sustainable Agriculture Farming Systems (SAFS) Project was established in 1988 to study the transition from conventional to low-input and organic farm management in California's Sacramento Valley. We evaluated the effects of these alternative farming systems on soil compaction, water-holding capacity, infiltration, and water storage in relation to tomato yield and fruit quality within the SAFS cropping systems comparison 10 years after it had been established. Soil bulk density (0-15, 15-30, 30-45, and 45-60 cm) was not significantly different among the farming systems. In situ water-holding capacity at 24, 48 and 72 h after water application was significantly higher in the organic system at all times and depths except 45-60 cm. Cumulative water infiltration after 3 h in the organic and low-input cover crop-based plots was more than twice that of the conventional system. The more rapid infiltration in the low-input and organic systems resulted in increased total irrigation needs, more water stored in the soil profile throughout the 30 days before harvest, and lower fruit soluble solids and titratable acidity in these systems relative to the conventional system. Yields were not significantly different in the organic, low-input, and conventional systems during either 1997 or 1998.

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addition of organic amendments can also affect other soil chemical properties, such as pH and electrical conductivity (EC). Soil EC tends to be higher in compost-amended soils, but the effect of compost on soil pH (raising or lowering pH) is dependent on

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