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Water Management and Quality for Ornamental Crop Production and Health

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

Experiments will be conducted with a number of herbaceous and woody plant species to gain an understanding of plant water and fertilizer requirements. Irrigation will be applied via soil moisture sensor controlled automated irrigation to precisely apply water to 1) understand the impact of water on plant growth and 2) to be able to quantify the amount of water being applied. Fertilizer requirements will be assessed by evaluating plant growth with variable applications of common controlled release fertilizers common in ornamental plant production. A deeper understanding of soilless media components will be determined by a series of experiments to look at both plant growth in different media and media combinations but also to look at the media properties (chemical and physical properties). Different irrigation methods will be compared (drip vs. overhead) to understand differences in plant growth between the two systems and to assess how to improve efficiency and uniformity in the systems. Substrate water holding additives such as hydrogels and surfactants will be assessed for their effectiveness in improving waterholding capacity and reducing leaching and their impact on fertilizer retention and uptake. All data will be statistically analyzed using SAS data analysis software using a method appropriate for the experiment.The project will be evaluated for success by 1) assessing grower change of practice when possible by before and after surveys after workshops and presentation, 2) monitored analytics for publications when possible, 3) through oral and written feedback at workshops, field days, and conferences. Grower surveys will specifically assess change of practice such as decreased fertilizer and irrigation applications. In terms of education of students at the University of Massachusetts, success will be gauged by student performance in class.

Agriculture topics: 
Water topics: