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Water Management and Quality for Ornamental Crop Production and Health

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Principal Investigator/Project Leader: 
Department of Project: 
Stockbridge School of Agriculture
Project Description: 

Improving water management is of increasing importance in horticultural operations. A growing global population and changes in water availability will mean that less water will be available for ornamental plant production. There are also a growing number of federal and state regulations regarding water use and runoff from production areas. Better irrigation and fertilization management practices will help to limit the environmental impact of container plant production by limiting the runoff of water and nutrients from nurseries. It will help growers to meet regulations regarding nutrient management and runoff. Reductions in runoff will help improve quality in local ecosystems.

In order to help growers improve their irrigation practices, the current state of nursery production in New England needs to be assessed in order to identify key areas for improvement. Informative materials can then be developed specifically for nursery growers in New England. This information will also help direct future research to help improve irrigation management issues that are identified. More sustainable production techniques will also be taught to the next generation of nursery producers so that they can help implement for sustainable practices as they move out into the industry.

The ultimate goal of the project will be to improve irrigation management in Massachusetts and New England nurseries. More efficient irrigation will result in less waste of water and inputs used for production. Societal benefits that may be realized is less runoff from production areas which will lessen the nutrient, pesticides, and fungicides that may enter local ecosystems. [To achieve this goal, we will] develop effective outreach programs which a) change behavior and implement best management practices, b) increase resource use-efficiency and minimize environmental impacts of practices, c) increase production efficiency and profitability and d) allow regulatory agency and public sectors to access baseline information which can be used for policy and other decisionmaking. Research results will be disseminated to the academic community through traditional means (e.g. peer reviewed journals, and extension programs) and also more novel web-based methods (knowledge centers, eXtension and social networks).  in pursuing improved irrigation management we will d

etermine the water requirements of a variety of ornamental plants and how these water requirements are affected by plant size and environmental conditions. Compare irrigation methods (e.g. overhead, spray stakes, drip irrigation, subirrigation) to determine how they affect total water use, plant growth and quality, and runoff water quality. Quantify reductions in water use, leaching, and runoff that result from more efficient irrigation techniques. Develop new and optimize existing methods to provide growers with real time information regarding the water requirements of their crops, including crop water use models and sensor networks that can be easily deployed in greenhouses and nurseries.

Agriculture topics: 
Water
Water topics: 
Irrigation