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