Are Irrigation Systems Beneficial?

Hibiscus acetosella ‘Panama Red’ Photo: idtools.orgHibiscus acetosella ‘Panama Red’ Photo:

A team at the University of Georgia recently published new findings about irrigation systems. 

Amanda Bayer, lead author of the research study, and colleagues Imran Mahbub, Matthew Chappell, John Ruter and Marc van Iersel from the Department of Horticulture recently published answers that can help horticultural growers.

As more and more water issues appear all over the country, people in the green industry look for answers to the water restraints, minimal water supplies and increasing water efficiency.

According to Bayer, best management practices (BMPs), are used to conserve water. However, BMPs do not account for water requirements of plants.

“Soil moisture sensors can be used along with an automated irrigation system to irrigate when substrate volumetric water content drops below a set threshold, allowing for precise irrigation control and improved water conservation compared with traditional irrigation practices,” Bayer says. “We designed a project to quantify the growth of Hibiscus acetosella ‘Panama Red’ in response to various soil water content thresholds.”

The team tested the plant with soil moisture sensors at different sites to maintain soil water content above specific thresholds.

The experiments were in a greenhouse setting at the university and on outdoor nursery pads at the UGA Horticulture Farm.

The sites were in two different U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones to help compare plant responses in different environments.

“We found that plant growth increased with increasing water content threshold in both greenhouse and nursery settings,” the team concludes.

The results showed the effect of the substrate volumetric water content threshold on dry weight, plant height and compactness. This ultimately shows that commercial nurseries can use sensor-controlled irrigation systems to control plant growth.

If nurseries did this, it could help reduce pruning, leaching and allow for reductions in the use of fertilizers. 

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