Submitted to: Journal of Arid Environments
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/15/2010
Publication Date: 5/10/2010
Publication URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10113/41844
Citation: Lucero, M.E., Dreesen, D.R., Vanleeuwen, D.M. 2010. Using hydrogel filled, embedded tubes to sustain grass transplants for arid land restoration. Journal of Arid Environments. 74:987-990. Interpretive Summary: Grass restoration on remote arid range sites is difficult when precipitation is lacking and water must be transported to the site. Though established, well-adapted plant species should be able to survive on these sites, natural precipitation is rarely sufficient to ensure establishment of new, young plants. Hydrogels formed of various starch or acrylic polymers can retain large volumes of plant available water. In this study, we examined the utility of hydrogel filled embedded watering tubes for irrigation of grass transplants. The embedded tubes store water near the plant roots, reducing loss through seepage or evaporation. In the greenhouse, transplants grew to mature plants on less than 1 L of water. Plants irrigated with starch hydrogels consumed the most water but also exhibited the most growth and reproductive potential. Variations in pot styles had only minor effects on plant growth and water loss from tubes. In the field trial, heavy precipitation throughout the growing season resulted in high transplant survival for both treatments, with no significant differences in observed cover. This study suggests embedded tubes filled with properly hydrated, commercially available hydrogels will be useful for remote site restoration of grasses like Bouteloua eriopoda.
Technical Abstract: Grass restoration on remote arid rangelands may require irrigation to stimulate seedling establishment. However, irrigation on undeveloped sites is costly. In this study, the survival, growth, and development of Bouteloua eriopoda seedlings irrigated with either starch- or acrylic-based hydrogels contained in one of three styles of embedded watering tubes were evaluated in a greenhouse trial. A field trial evaluated differences in transplant survival and cover between treatments consisting of embedded watering tubes with or without acrylic hydrogels. Greenhouse transplants grew 146 days on less than 1 L of water. Plants irrigated with starch hydrogels consumed the most water but also exhibited the most growth and reproductive potential. Variations in pot styles had only minor effects on plant growth and water loss from tubes. In the field trial, unusually heavy growing season precipitation resulted in high transplant survival for both treatments, with no significant differences in observed cover. Results of greenhouse studies demonstrate potential for hydrogel filled embedded tubes to sustain grass transplants through establishment. Maximal hydration of acrylic gels is recommended to ensure plant availability of bound water.