Irrigation interval comparison for petunia

Pictured is a high view of Petunia ‘Colorworks Pink Radiance’ irrigated with a slender vary drying interval (54% to 40%) on the left and a variety drying interval (54% to 20%) on the proper. The plant on the proper is extra compact, darker green, and has extra flowers. This photograph was taken after two weeks of shelflife.
Photos by Cecilia Guo

Growing bedding crops in 5-inch or bigger containers, somewhat than smaller containers and flats, is an upward development in the trade. A unique strategy to watering bedding crops in bigger containers may aid you cut back water utilization and save on labor, with a rise (or not less than no loss) of manufacturing and shelflife high quality.

Our research, funded by the American Floral Endowment, confirmed a number of advantages of decreasing water utilization by rising the interval between watering throughout greenhouse manufacturing for some cultivars of bedding crops grown in 6½-inch containers.

Details of the Study
It is a typical follow to irrigate greenhouse crops to container capability (CC), which is outlined as the quantity of water content material held in the root substrate after extra water has drained away by gravity. This share of root substrate moisture content material (SMC) at CC varies with the kind of root substrate. The problem turns into how dry to let the root substrate get earlier than rewatering.

Our research analyzed the results of two ranges of drying down of SMC earlier than rewatering on plant progress and growth — postproduction high quality and financial worth of bedding crops grown in 6½-inch containers throughout greenhouse manufacturing. Our speculation was {that a} wider vary of SMC throughout manufacturing would decrease manufacturing prices, management progress, and higher acclimate crops to the postproduction setting ensuing in higher visible high quality throughout shelflife.

We grew eight cultivars of bedding crops, together with Angelonia ‘Angelface Blue,’ Coleus ‘French Quarter,’ Heliotrope (Heliotropium) ‘Simply Scentsational,’ Petunia ‘Colorworks Pink Radiance,’ Lantana ‘Lucky Flame,’ Impatiens (Sunpatiens) ‘Compact Hot Coral,’ I. ‘Sunpatiens Spreading Lavender,’ and Salvia ‘Red Hot Sally II.’

We bought the crops as liners or plugs, transplanted them into 6½-inch spherical plastic containers, and allowed 14 days for root institution earlier than initiation of watering therapies. The crops grew in a peat/perlite root substrate and have been fertilized with every irrigation utilizing 200 ppm 20-10-20.

Throughout manufacturing, utilizing Watchdog 1000 micro stations and SM100 WaterScout sensors from Spectrum Technologies, we monitored SMC and watered crops with one in every of two drying intervals: (1) slender vary from CC (54% SMC) to 40% SMC; or (2) big selection from CC to 20% SMC repeatedly as wanted. The first drying interval was very similar to the typical approach of watering in which the root substrate is saved evenly moist always, and the second drying interval allowed the root substrate to dry to the level that the crops have been beginning to present signs of water stress.

The crops grew in the greenhouse till they have been marketable (six to 9 weeks). Then we loaded them onto transport carts wrapped with plastic and saved them in the darkish for 24 hours to copy transport circumstances.

Afterward, the crops have been positioned again on the greenhouse bench and shaded with 50% shade material for 2 weeks of simulated shelflife. During simulated shelflife, crops have been watered with plain water solely once they started to wilt.

Irrigation interval comparison for salvia plants

On the proper is a entrance view of Salvia ‘Red Hot Sally II’ irrigated with a slender vary drying interval (54% to 40%), and a variety drying interval (54% to 20%) is pictured on the left. The plant on the left is extra compact and darker green. This photograph was taken after two weeks of shelflife.
Photos by Cecilia Guo

Benefits From a Wide Range Drying Interval
Species diversified in their response to diminished water utilization (i.e., rising the time interval between watering). Here is a breakdown on how the completely different cultivars responded to the big selection (54% to 20%) drying interval.

Better high quality crops acclimated to shelflife: Angelonia, Petunia, and Salvia
These three species actually benefited from diminished water utilization. Plant height or width was diminished with out the use of plant progress regulators. Flower quantity elevated both throughout manufacturing or shelflife, with much less lack of flowers throughout shelf life and darker green leaves. Angelonia and Petunia had elevated root progress and fewer water stress throughout shelflife. Two to 4 watering occasions and as much as 2 quarts of water per plant have been saved throughout manufacturing and shelflife mixed.

Saved watering occasions with out detrimental results on high quality: Coleus, Heliotrope, and Impatiens ‘Sunpatiens Spreading Lavender’
In this group, solely Impatiens had a discount in plant width. Heliotrope was the just one that had elevated flowers at harvest, and the just one in this group that had extra roots. Impatiens had the similar variety of flowers no matter the drying interval and, in fact, coleus shouldn’t be grown for its flowers. All different measures of high quality weren’t affected by the big selection (54% to 20%) drying interval. One to 2 watering occasions have been saved, however there was no financial savings in the quantity of water besides one quart of water per plant for heliotrope.

Detrimental Effects on Plant Quality
Plant width was decreased for each Impatiens ‘Sunpatiens Compact Hot Coral’ and Lantana ‘Lucky Flame,’ and the Impatiens had extra root progress. However, each cultivars had a drastically diminished variety of flowers at harvest and through shelflife, and lantana had yellow leaves.

Take-Home Messages
These outcomes present that manufacturing prices may be diminished, and manufacturing and shelf life high quality can enhance by rising the interval between watering simply to the level of plant wilting somewhat than maintaining root substrate continuously moist. The discount in prices is a results of the diminished bench house required (which lowered the residency prices expressed by overhead price per sq. foot per week), the decreased quantity (and related prices) of water, and the diminished irrigation-associated labor (e.g., to verify and restore emitters).

For all eight cultivars, the whole variety of irrigation occasions was much less with a variety drying interval of 54% to 20% SMC throughout manufacturing weeks, however the whole quantity of water was not all the time diminished with much less frequent irrigation. This was as a result of the containers that have been allowed to dry right down to 20% SMC have been drier in contrast with 40% SMC. Therefore, they wanted extra water enter at every water occasion to extend the SMC again to CC.

Considering manufacturing and/or post-production high quality, permitting SMC to dry right down to 20% between watering occasions throughout greenhouse manufacturing is useful as an irrigation technique for Angelonia ‘Angelface Blue,’ Coleus ‘French Quarter,’ Heliotrope (Heliotropium) ‘Simply Scentsational,’ Petunia ‘Pink Radiance’, Impatiens ‘Sunpatiens Spreading Lavender,’ and Salvia ‘Red Hot Sally II.’ However, contemplating the crop high quality and flower quantity, we might not advocate this for I. ‘Sunpatiens Compact Coral’ or Lantana ‘Lucky Flame.’

The authors thank the American Floral Endowment for funding this project.

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