The July issue of HortScience has a paper from former PhD student and current Extension Assistant Professor of Sustainable Landscape Horticulture at UMass. The paper describes some of Mandy’s PhD work, focused on irrigation and fertilization management of Gardenia jasminoides. The full text is posted at: http://hortsci.ashspublications.org/content/50/7/994.full.pdf.
Here is the abstract:
Excessive irrigation and leaching are of increasing concern in container plant production. It can also necessitate multiple fertilizer applications, which is costly for growers. Our objective was to determine whether fertilizer and irrigation water can be applied more efficiently to reduce leachate volume and nutrient content without negatively impacting aboveground growth of Gardenia jasminoides ‘MAGDA I’. Plants were fertilized with one of three rates of a controlled-release fertilizer (subplots) (Florikan 18–6–8, 9–10 month release; 18.0N–2.6P–6.6K) [100 (40 g/plant), 50 (20 g/plant), and 25% of bag rate (10 g/plant)] and grown in 5.4-L containers outside for 137 days. Soil moisture sensor-controlled, automated irrigation was used to provide plants with one of four irrigation volumes (whole plots) (66, 100, 132, or 165 mL) at each irrigation event. All plants were irrigated when the control treatment (66 mL irrigation volume, 100% fertilizer treatment) reached a volumetric water content (VWC) of 0.35 m3·m-3. Plants in the different irrigation treatments were irrigated for 2, 3, 4, or 5 minutes, thus applying 66, 100, 132, or 165 mL/plant in the different irrigation treatments. Fertilizer rate had a greater effect on aboveground growth than irrigation volume with the 25% fertilizer rate resulting in significantly lower shoot dry weight (18.7 g/plant) than the 50% and 100% rates (25.3 and 27.3 g/plant respectively). Growth index was also lowest in the 25% fertilizer rate. Leachate volume varied greatly during the growing season due to rainfall and irrigation volume effects on leachate were most evident during the third, eighth, and ninth biweekly leachate collections, during which there was minimal or no rainfall. For these collections the control treatment of 66 mL resulted in minimal leachate (less than 130 mL over the 2-week leachate collection period), whereas leachate volume increased with increasing irrigation volumes. Pore water electrical conductivity (EC), leachate EC, NO3-N content, and PO4-P content were all highest with the 100% fertilizer rate, with the 66 mL irrigation treatment having the highest leachate EC for all fertilizer treatments. Cumulative leachate volumes for the 66 and 100 mL irrigation treatments were unaffected by fertilizer rate, whereas the 132 and 165 mL had greater leaching at the 25% fertilizer rate. Lower irrigation volumes resulted in reduced water and nutrient leaching and higher leachate EC. The higher leachate EC was the result of higher concentration of nutrients in less volume of leachate. The results of this study suggest that a combination of reduced fertilizer rates (up to 50%) and more efficient irrigation can be used to produce salable plants with reduced leaching and thus less environmental impact.