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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Irrigation of floricultural and nursery crops with saline wastewaters

item Grieve, Catherine

Submitted to: Israel Journal of Plants Sciences
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/23/2012
Publication Date: 6/6/2012
Publication URL:
Citation: Grieve, C.M. 2012. Irrigation of floricultural and nursery crops with saline wastewaters. Israel Journal of Plants Sciences. 59(2-4):187-196.

Interpretive Summary: Competition among agricultural and urban users for high-quality water supplies has increased as the population increases. One environmentally-sound approach for conserving these dwindling water resources is the capture and reuse of degraded, often saline, wastewaters for crop production. Growers of high value cut flower and nursery crops have traditionally used high-quality waters in order to avoid jeopardizing quality and yield of the marketable product. However, little quantitative information is available in the literature that would guide growers in the selection of cut flower species which could be produced with recycled, saline waters. Research conducted at the U. S. Salinity Laboratory on floricultural crops is summarized. Procedures and practices are described for testing the response of ten economically valuable species to irrigation with saline waters under greenhouse and lysimeter conditions. Research results suggest that selected cut flower species are, to varying degrees, salt tolerant. Recommendations are given for saline water and soil thresholds (the maximum salinity that does not reduce yield and quality below that obtained under nonsaline conditions) suitable for the commercial production of selected floriculture species. Species suitable for salt-affected landscape sites are evaluated mainly on aesthetic value; flowering stems need not be as long and the number of flowers per spike need not be as many as long as the plant looks healthy. All of the plant species we studied are candidates for landscape sites. Recommendations are given for matching the landscape species with available water quality. Information generated by this research program will be used by commercial growers of cut flowers, landscape designers, managers of recreational areas such as parks, and home gardeners.

Technical Abstract: Water security has become a major concern throughout the western United States and other arid and semiarid regions worldwide. Uncertainties concerning the allocation and dependability of good quality water have led to increased interest in the use alternative, non-potable waters for irrigated agriculture. Treated urban effluents, runoff from greenhouse operations, agricultural drainage waters, or naturally-occurring low quality waters are abundant in many arid or semiarid areas. Reuse of these waters for production of floral and nursery crops requires an understanding of plant response to the stress imposed by inorganic salts in the irrigation waters. Growers will then be able to match specific crops to available water qualities, and further, to institute management practices to sustain quality of the marketable product. This report reviews the results of studies conducted at the U. S. Salinity Laboratory, Riverside, CA on the effect of saline irrigation waters on yield and quality of ten species of herbaceous cut flower crops. Test crops were: snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus L.), celosia (Celosia argentea var. cristata (L.) Kuntz), sunflower (Helianthus annuus (L.)), statice (Limonium perezii (Snapf) F. T. Hubb) and L. sinuatum (L.) Mill), stock (Matthiola incana (L.) R. Br.), ranunculus (Ranunculus asiatica L.), marigold (Tagetes erecta L. and T. patula L.), and zinnia (Zinnia elegans Jacq.). Treatment waters were prepared to simulate the inorganic chemistry of recyclable waters available in different areas of California. Guidelines are presented for reuse of degraded water for production of commercially important cut flower crops, and also for selection of crops suitable for salt-affected landscape sites.

Last Modified: 10/19/2017
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