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A Comparison of Irrigation-Water Containment Methods and Management Strategies Between Two Ornamental Production Systems to Minimize Water Security Threats

1
Wye Research and Education Center, University of Maryland Extension, Queenstown, MD 21658, USA
2
Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Water 2019, 11(12), 2558; https://doi.org/10.3390/w11122558
Received: 30 September 2019 / Revised: 25 November 2019 / Accepted: 27 November 2019 / Published: 3 December 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Irrigation and Water Resources Management of Landscape Plants)
Water security in ornamental plant production systems is vital for maintaining profitability. Expensive, complicated, or potentially dangerous treatment systems, together with skilled labor, is often necessary to ensure water quality and plant health. Two contrasting commercial ornamental crop production systems in a mesic region are compared, providing insight into the various strategies employed using irrigation-water containment and treatment systems. The first is a greenhouse/outdoor container operation which grows annual ornamental plants throughout the year using irrigation booms, drip emitters, and/or ebb and flow systems depending on the crop, container size, and/or stage of growth. The operation contains and recycles 50–75% of applied water through a system of underground cisterns, using a recycling reservoir and a newly constructed 0.25 ha slow-sand filtration (SSF) unit. Groundwater provides additional water when needed. Water quantity is not a problem in this operation, but disease and water quality issues, including agrochemicals, are of potential concern. The second is a perennial-plant nursery which propagates cuttings and produces field-grown trees and containerized plants. It has a series of containment/recycling reservoirs that capture rainwater and irrigation return water, together with wells of limited output. Water quantity is a more important issue for this nursery, but poor water quality has had some negative economic effects. Irrigation return water is filtered and sanitized with chlorine gas before being applied to plants via overhead and micro-irrigation systems. The agrochemical paclobutrazol was monitored for one year in the first operation and plant pathogens were qualified and quantified over two seasons for both production systems. The two operations employ very different water treatment systems based on their access to water, growing methods, land topography, and capital investment. Each operation has experienced different water quantity and quality vulnerabilities, and has addressed these threats using a variety of technologies and management techniques to reduce their impacts.
Keywords: container production; propagation; in-ground production; water quality; disease management; irrigation return water; reservoir container production; propagation; in-ground production; water quality; disease management; irrigation return water; reservoir
MDPI and ACS Style

Ristvey, A.G.; Belayneh, B.E.; Lea-Cox, J.D. A Comparison of Irrigation-Water Containment Methods and Management Strategies Between Two Ornamental Production Systems to Minimize Water Security Threats. Water 2019, 11, 2558.

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