Comparing substrate moisture-based daily water use and on-demand irrigation regimes for oakleaf hydrangea grown in two container sizes

Ethan Hagen, Susmitha Nambuthiri, Amy Fulcher, Robert Geneve

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Independently controlled irrigation plots were designed to test two container nursery irrigation regimes on oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia 'Alice') in both nursery and controlled greenhouse environments. The experiments were conducted in both 3.8 and 11.4. L containers. Plants were automatically irrigated by one of two soil moisture sensor-based regimes: (1) a daily water use (DWU) system that delivered the exact amount of water that had been lost in the previous 24. h and (2) an on-demand (OD) irrigation system based on a specific substrate moisture content derived from the relationship between substrate moisture and photosynthetic rate. In this system, irrigation was applied when the substrate moisture level fell below 33% container capacity, which corresponded to 90% maximum predicted photosynthetic rate. Both treatments delivered the volume of water required to return the containers to container capacity by overhead irrigation, but the DWU system was static, irrigating once per day, whereas OD was dynamic and irrigated whenever the substrate moisture reached the 33% threshold level. Gas exchange was measured at the driest point prior to the next irrigation event. Periodical growth index, water use, and final dry weight were recorded. OD used less water than DWU outdoors, reduced leaching fraction among greenhouse experiments, and had either no or a positive impact on biomass in all but one trial. For 3.8 L plants, photosynthesis and stomatal conductance were consistently greater when irrigated by the OD program. Both treatments used significantly less water than the industry standard of 2.5 cm per day. This research demonstrated that both DWU and OD are a dramatic improvement over conventional irrigation scheduling and could be adopted as conservative irrigation systems for nursery production.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)132-139
Number of pages8
JournalScientia Horticulturae
StatePublished - Nov 24 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Elsevier B.V.


  • Capacitance sensors
  • Nursery crops
  • Photosynthesis
  • Water deficit

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Horticulture


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