September 12, 2013

Irrigating Crops On Demand

Automating greenhouse irrigation can be a huge labor saver, which is imperative for a modern greenhouse to be competitive. Irrigation controllers make it possible to automate greenhouse irrigation, but one usually programs the system to come on for a set time on a set schedule. Environmental conditions change such that a set program may be wrong more often than it is right. Sensing devices can be employed to aid a greenhouse operator making decisions about when to water, or one can take this a step further and let the substrate itself decide when it needs to be watered. Comparing On-Demand To Automated Irrigation Rather than have a set schedule programmed into a controller, it is possible to wire a moisture-sensing device, such as a tensiometer, between an electric valve and a source of electricity (transformer). When the moisture level in the substrate falls below a set-point, a switch on the […]

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March 19, 2013

Irrigation And Fertilizer Tips For New Vegetable Growers

Compared to other variable costs, fertilizers are not the largest part of the budget in conventional greenhouse production. Nevertheless, over the course of the season, mistakes in fertilizer use can lead to significant damages or crop losses. That makes this an important topic for ornamental growers who are experimenting with growing vegetable crops. This article will emphasize major differences between fertilizers used in vegetable production and in ornamentals production. The different nutrition strategies, monitoring and water volume per plant will also be explained. Fertilizer In ornamental production, nutrients are delivered using various water-soluble fertilizers through a fertilizer injector, through the use of controlled-release fertilizers, or a combination of the two. There are numerous fertilizer mixes available with all the needed nutrients already included. The fertilization rate is often given in parts per million (ppm) of nitrogen (N), which is a way of expressing the fertilizer concentration. At younger stages, plants will […]

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November 8, 2012

Irrigation In The Greenhouse: How To Water Wisely

How Plants Take Up WaterFind out exactly how plants take up water from substrates and which factors affect water uptake most. Hand Watering, Booms, Sprinklers Or Drip?Find out if your existing irrigation system is the most efficient one or if you could be watering more wisely. Subirrigation: Watering From The Ground UpSub-irrigation systems like capillary mats, floor and drain trays, troughs or benches and flood floors can offer a better alternative to top-down watering methods. Hydroponics Give Growers ControlResearchers explain why soilless watering systems result in higher crop yields than their soil-based counterparts. Save Water With Automation And SensorsNew irrigation technology makes watering plants easier than ever. Take these steps to incorporate sensors into your operation. Capillary Mats Are BackThis water-saving irrigation method lost popularity among greenhouse growers when other subirrigation methods stole the limelight. Now, in the era of sustainability, these mats may have a place in your greenhouse […]

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October 5, 2012

Dramm Dribble Tubes Provide Simple Drip Irrigation

Dramm developed the Dribble Tubes as a simple way to water plants automatically by dripping water directly into each pot. Dramm’s Dribble Tubes flow rate is controlled by the diameter and length of the tube. Dramm offers three diameters of tubing: 0.045 inches, 0.060 inches and 0.075 inches ID. Each diameter comes in lengths from 12 inches to 60 inches standard. Eyelets for both outer diameters are available for a secure connection. Dramm’s SlimWeight slips easily from the pot during harvesting and does not get caught in expanded metal benching. Unlike other weights, the SlimWeight is made from a zinc-aluminum alloy instead of lead.

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August 6, 2012

Capillary Mats Are Back

Thirty years ago, capillary mats were used for production of floricultural pot crops like Easter lilies. The advantage was that plants could be grown practically pot-to-pot, thus maximizing plants per square foot. Also, since Easter lilies grow best when fertigated with tempered water delivered on a uniform schedule, the capillary mat was ideal. During the 1990s, capillary mats for growing plants fell out of favor as a fertigation method when compared to drip irrigation and other sub-irrigation methods. However, recent advances in electronic controls, mat composition and the use of a drip tape to deliver water directly to the mat at even locations, make cap-mat watering worthy of another look. Combine this with concerns about groundwater contamination, quantity, quality and costs associated with water usage, cap mats and their low-water requirements will certainly come back into the greenhouse growing picture. There are a number of capillary mat types available, each […]

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July 9, 2012

Save Water With Automation And Sensors

Automating irrigation is a great way to save water. One of the latest innovations in irrigation automation is the use of substrate moisture sensors to trigger irrigation. These sensors are relatively inexpensive and, when used, can conserve water and, consequently, reduce pollution and the amount of money spent on electricity for pumps in wells. A wide variety of annual and perennial plants may be irrigated with as little as 0.3 to 1.3 gallons of water for the entire cropping cycle using substrate moisture sensors. Sensors Ensure Proper Substrate Moisture For High-Quality Plants Most substrate moisture sensors literally measure the amount of water in soils. This is usually expressed by volume, as the ratio of the volume of water to the volume of substrate in a pot (substrate moisture content percent = (volume of water xvolume of substrate) / 100). In peat-based substrates, the substrate moisture content of 45 to 50 […]

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April 26, 2012

Subirrigation: Watering From The Ground Up

The goal for any irrigation system is to deliver water to the growing medium as effectively and efficiently as possible. Effectively means getting the right amount of water into the growing medium. Efficiently means minimizing the amount of water that is lost from the system.  In order to irrigate effectively, an irrigation system must deliver water uniformly to every pot in an irrigation zone. An efficient irrigation system will either deliver water with minimal leaching and runoff or capture and reuse all the water that is not retained in the growing medium. Sub-irrigation systems are generally both more effective and efficient than top-down systems. These systems include capillary mats, troughs, flood and drain trays and flood floors. Capillary Mats The simplest form of sub-irrigation, in these systems water is delivered to a porous mat that is in contact with the bottom of the container. This allows water to move from […]

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April 24, 2012

Hand Watering, Booms, Sprinklers Or Drip?

The amount of water that can be held by the substrate in a given container with a specific irrigation method is the effective water-holding capacity (EWHC). It may be desirable to maintain the moisture content of the medium below EWHC in order to regulate plant growth or reduce the risk of soil-borne diseases. Overall, it is important to irrigate thoroughly. The amount of water applied must be sufficient to re-wet the entire volume of growing medium. If the medium is dry and not enough water is applied, only part of the mix will be re-wetted. In irrigating thoroughly, the method of delivery plays an important role. With top-down irrigation, water will be pulled downward by the force of gravity. As it moves downward, some will be held by the growing medium. Usually, some water will escape from the bottom of the pot before the medium is thoroughly wet. At the […]

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March 6, 2012

Predicting Plant Water Uptake

Understanding plant water use begins with substrates, which serve as the water reservoir for plants. There are a few basic concepts that will help you understand the impact that substrate selection has on plant water availability. Container capacity (or water-holding capacity) is the maximum amount of water a substrate can hold. To calculate the container capacity of your substrate, fill a container with dry substrate and seal the container holes. Once you measure the amount of water you need to add to completely fill the container, place the container over a catch basin and remove the seals. Allow the container to drain for one hour and measure the amount of water that drained from the substrate. The container capacity is: (volume to saturate-drainage) divided by volume of container. Then, multiply that figure by 100 percent. A container capacity of 60 to 70 percent is typical for soilless substrates. Another important […]

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August 3, 2011

Using ABA To Reduce Water Loss In Chrysanthemum & Aster

Greenhouse crop production often employs the use of plant hormones and growth-regulating chemicals to control growth such as plant height, rooting and flowering. Abscisic acid (ABA) is a natural plant hormone produced in roots in response to drought conditions. ABA is moved to the leaves, where it stimulates the closure of stomata, reduces water loss and halts photosynthesis. Until recently, ABA has not been used in greenhouse crop production because there have been no products registered for commercial use. However, Valent BioSciences Corporation is planning to release ConTego Pro, a new plant growth regulator utilizing S-abscisic acid (S-ABA), the biologically active form of ABA. ConTego Pro has already received EPA registration. To delay wilting, S-ABA is best applied as a foliar spray. An application causes the stomata to close, and therefore, reduces water loss from the leaves. Treated plants exposed to water-limiting conditions can therefore tolerate a longer period of […]

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June 9, 2011

Netafim’s More Sustainable Dripline

Netafim USA’s high performance Techline CV dripline is now manufactured with recycled materials, giving Netafim the opportunity to earn LEED credits on landscape installations. Techline CV is used in a broad range of applications to irrigate turf, trees, shrubs and bedding areas. The flexible tubing features two PSI check valves in each dripper for equalized application of water throughout the system (all drippers turn on and off at the same time). Check valves also prevent low emitter drainage with elevation changes up to 4 1/2 feet. Techline CV’s dripper design offers continuous self-flushing throughout the line, not just at the beginning or end or a cycle. Pressure compensation allows equal amounts of water to be delivered over a broad pressure range (14.7 to 70 PSI), and a physical root barrier protects the internal system from root intrusion without chemicals. Techline CV can be installed above ground or sub-surface, and it delivers water directly […]

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