Submitted to: Nursery Management and Production
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/10/2006
Publication Date: 6/15/2006
Citation: Zhu, H., Zondag, R.H., Krause, C.R., Demaline, T. 2006. Achieve PIP Precision. Nursery Management and Production. p. 59-64.
Technical Abstract: What will you expect if you can apply water and nutrition to your container-grown plants at the time when they need without waste while still maintain a proper nutrient level and water to air ratio? Research by the USDA- ARS Application Technology Research Unit (ATRU) has started to provide answers to these questions. A water and fertilizer monitoring system at a commercial nursery field was developed to study patterns that typical nurseries should use to irrigate plants. Research showed that a large amount of water and nutrients lost through drainage with the current irrigation practices in pot-in-pot nursery production because of over applying water to container-grown plants during a short period of time. The study showed that water either moves down the side of the pot due to medium shrinkage or moves through large pores and never has enough time to be absorbed into small pores. Also, the current irrigation practices not only cause a large portion of water wasted but also cause a problem that the excess water carries nutrients and other chemical elements back to the water sources. Results from the studies illustrate that only 3 minutes are required with a 3 gallon per hour spray stake to apply enough water for a #15 container tree during each irrigation cycle, and only twice irrigation cycles are required each day during the growing season. However, growers previously applied irrigation to pot-in-pot production 20 to 30 minutes every day, which caused large amount of water lost through drainage. Reducing the total amount of water lost through drainage could greatly reduce the total amount of N, P and K lost though drainage.