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Title: A New System to Monitor Water and Nutrient use Efficiency in Pot-in-Pot Nursery Production System

item Zhu, Heping
item Krause, Charles
item Brazee, Ross
item Derksen, Richard
item Reding, Michael - Mike
item Fausey, Norman

Submitted to: Journal of Environmental Horticulture
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/12/2005
Publication Date: 3/10/2005
Citation: Zhu, H., Krause, C.R., Zondag, R.H., Brazee, R.D., Derksen, R.C., Reding, M.E., Fausey, N.R. 2005. A New System to Monitor Water and Nutrient use Efficiency in Pot-in-Pot Nursery Production System. Journal of Environmental Horticulture. 23(1):47-53.

Interpretive Summary: Efficient use and availability of quality water sources has been a major concern in the nursery industry for many years. Due to the current lack of scientific methodologies to guide irrigation practices, nursery growers often may apply water to crops by simply turning on valves without knowing how much water and nutrient are lost through runoff or drainage. An experimental system was established to examine water and nutrition utilization efficiency, water drainage from pot-in-pot nursery container production, and tree growth response to changes in weather conditions. The system provides information for the nursery industry with potential benefits in: (1) knowledge of the amounts of water and nutrients leaching underground due to irrigation and rainfall in a pot-in-pot nursery system; (2) improved irrigation management for tree growth, water use efficiency and nutrition programs, and understanding of the effects of weather on irrigation schedules; (3) knowledge of the extent of chemical pesticide leaching from irrigation and rainfall following pesticide application as it relates to potential for soil and groundwater contamination; (4) enable automatic irrigation scheduling to produce healthy trees with minimal water consumption and nutrient and pesticide leaching. The first-year study with the monitoring system indicated that about 38% of water applied with the current irrigation practice in pot-in-pot production was lost through drainage. Nursery growers will use the information to improve their production practice.

Technical Abstract: Techniques are needed to ecologically monitor nursery production practices for proper use of water resources and nutrient management. An experimental system to examine water quality, irrigation efficiency and drainage from pot-in-pot nursery container production was established in a commercial nursery field. The system mainly consisted of a plot containing 50 trees planted in 50 pot-in-pot containers and irrigated with micro spray stakes; 10 drainage water measurement devices; 10 container-medium moisture probes; 10 thermocouples; a weather station and data loggers. Tests indicated the system was capable to measure irrigation and rainfall inputs, drainage water loss, container medium moisture content and temperature, leachate of nitrogen, phosphate and potassium in drainage water, and tree growth in pot-in-pot nursery production. The system provided a method to monitor not only the loss of water and nutrients but also continuously monitor the medium temperature and moisture content during four seasons of a year to evaluate potentials of winter injury or summer heat damage to roots for pot-in-pot nursery production.