The research aimed to improve efficiency of water use on nurseries. Recent concerns over costs of mains water and extraction rights from rivers and boreholes, combined with predications of lower rainfall patterns have focused the industry's attention on this topic. Container nurserystock production in particular relies on overhead irrigation with water often applied to excess. Savings are obtained by applying irrigation more effectively.
The work investigated:
- Making overhead application more efficient, reducing run-off and targeting application more closely to crop requirements
- Influencing plant quality using different irrigation regimes
- Exploiting plant's own regulatory systems (their internal hormones) to modify plant shape and limit the need for pruning or artificial plant growth regulators.
The project was funded through the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Horticulture LINK programme. The research was a collaboration between DEFRA, the Horticultural Development Council, 2 equipment suppliers and 7 nurseries providing data on water use in different regions and under different irrigation systems. The science partners undertaking the work are Horticulture Research International (HRI), Lancaster University, Institute of Hydrology and WRc.
The work was enthusiastically endorsed by the Programme Management Committee with the breadth of outputs and knowledge transfer activities particularly highlighted.
- Reduced water costs by:
- Reduced operating costs by:
- Providing a better understanding of growth response in hardy nurserystock and establishing appropriate water regimes for different plant groups
- Developing technology to manipulate plant growth and habit effectively
- Decreasing the potential for nutrient leaching and run-off from container beds.
- Enhancing crop value through increased numbers of plants reaching retail specifications.