Irrigation scheduling of tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) and cucumbers (Cucumis sativus L.) grown hydroponically in coir

Van der Westhuizen, Rykie Jacoba (Stellenbosch : University of Stellenbosch, 2009-12)

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The use of capacitance water sensors for the scheduling of irrigation for hydroponic tomato and cucumber crops grown in coir was investigated in a series of laboratory and glasshouse experiments in the Free State province of South Africa. Laboratory experiments in a climate controlled chamber were conducted to accurately calibrate ECH2O capacitance sensors, models EC-10 and EC-20, in coir with an improved calibration procedure. Water content predictions by the coir-specific calibration and manufacturer’s calibration equations were compared to actual water content measured from mass loss of the coir sample. The manufacturer’s calibration equation indicated a poor accuracy of prediction, which mostly underestimated the volumetric water content, compared to the near perfect prediction of the coir-specific calibration of individual sensors. A rapid calibration procedure for EC-10 and EC-20 sensors was proposed to reduce the calibration time of the sensors and promote their commercial use for irrigation management in coir. The accuracy of prediction by the rapid calibration procedure for the plant available water content range was high for both EC-10 and EC-20 sensors and allowed for the compensation for variation between sensors. Glasshouse studies aimed to characterise the water retention and ability of coir to supply water to greenhouse tomato and cucumber crops through the continuous monitoring of medium water content in small and large growing bags with the EC-10 and EC-20 capacitance sensors during a drying cycle, compared to well-watered plants. Stages of crop water stress were identified and, based only on the plant’s response to the drying cycle, it was suggested that water depletion can be allowed to the point of mild water stress for both greenhouse tomato and cucumber crops, which can be detected by soil water sensors. In a second series of glasshouse experiments, the identified stages of crop water stress were used to determine and apply depletion levels in coir and compare this irrigation strategy to a well-watered treatment for greenhouse cucumber and tomato plants, with regard to the water balance components, yield and water use efficiency for different bag sizes. Results indicated that irrigation was successfully managed to the pre-determined water depletion levels for cucumber and tomato plants in coir, through the use of in situ calibrated capacitance sensors. For both crops the depletion of water varied between bag sizes, indicating that various bag sizes require different irrigation management strategies. Scheduling to the highest pre-determined by 124 L m-2 in the small and 240 L m-2 in the large bags for cucumbers and 427 L m-2 in the small and 487 L m-2 in the large bags for tomato plants, compared to the well-watered treatments. Yields achieved by the greenhouse tomato plants in the large growing bags and cucumber plants in the small and large bags were maintained or improved when scheduled to the highest depletion level (approximately 60% available water content) compared to the well-watered treatment. The combination of reduced irrigation and improved or maintained yields resulted in improved water use efficiencies (based on irrigation and transpiration) for the highest depletion level compared to the well-watered treatments. In all glasshouse experiments the well-watered treatment resulted in luxury water use by the plants. Finally, a study was conducted in order to compare crop water stress of greenhouse cucumber and tomato plants under luxury water supply and cyclic water deficit conditions. The comparison was based on the transpiration ratio and yield, while the use of capacitance sensors was evaluated for irrigation scheduling in coir for both crops. Transpiration data indicated that cucumber and tomato plants subjected to luxury water supply experience water stress earlier than plants subjected to cyclic water deficit conditions, irrespective of bag size. Results also indicated that irrigation scheduling according to water depletion levels in small bags is not yet recommended for greenhouse tomato and cucumber plants grown in coir, until further research is conducted. Scheduling to water depletion levels in large bags is, however, justified by the improved or maintained yields of the greenhouse cucumber and tomato plants. The estimated depletion levels for large bags beyond which yield are reduced was at 85% for tomatoes and 70% for cucumbers. In conclusion, the results clearly indicated that the use of capacitance sensors in large growing bags improves irrigation management of hydroponic cucumbers and tomatoes in coir by eliminating over-irrigation and improving water use efficiency. More research is needed before a conclusion can be made regarding irrigation scheduling with capacitance sensors in small growing bags.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die gebruik van kapasitansie water sensors vir besproeiingskedulering van tamatie en komkommer plante wat hidroponies in kokosveen gegroei is, is ondersoek in ‘n reeks laboratorium en glashuis eksperimente in die Vrystaat provinsie van Suid Afrika. Laboratorium eksperimente is uitgevoer in ‘n klimaat beheerde kas om ECH2O kapasitansie sensors, modelle EC-10 en EC-20, akkuraat te kalibreer vir kokosveen deur ’n verbeterde kalibrasie prosedure. Waterinhoud voorspellings deur die kokosveen spesifieke kalibrasie en die vervaardiger se kalibrasie vergelykings is vergelyk met die werklike waterinhoud wat gemeet is deur die kokosveen monster se massaverlies te monitor. Akkuraatheid van voorspelling deur die vervaardiger se kalibrasie vergelykings was swak en het meestal die volumetriese waterinhoud onderskat in vergelyking met die byna perfekte voorspelling deur die kokosveen spesifieke kalibrasie van individuele sensors. ’n Vinnige kalibrasie prosedure vir die EC-10 en EC-20 sensors is voorgestel om die kalibrasie tyd te verkort en die kommersiële gebruik van die sensors vir besproeiingsbestuur in kokosveen aan te moedig. Die akkuraatheid van voorspelling deur die vinnige kalibrasie prosedure, binne die grense van plant beskikbare waterinhoud, was hoog vir beide EC-10 en EC-20 sensors, terwyl die prosedure ook voorsiening maak vir variasie tussen sensors. Glashuis studies is uitgevoer om die water retensie en vermoë van kokosveen om water te voorsien aan tamatie en komkommer gewasse in kweekhuise, te karakteriseer. Dit is bereik deur die mediumwaterinhoud van klein en groot plantsakke deurlopend te monitor met behulp van die EC-10 en EC-20 kapasitansie sensors gedurende ’n uitdroging siklus, en dit te vergelyk met ’n waterryke behandeling vir elke gewas waarvolgens die plante agt keer per dag besproei is. Fases van gewas waterstremming is geïdentifiseer en, volgens die reaksie van die plant tot die drogingsiklus, is dit voorgestel dat wateronttrekking toegelaat kan word tot die punt van matige waterstremming wat aangewys kan word deur kapasitansie water sensors vir beide kweekhuis tamatie en komkommer gewasse. In ’n tweede reeks glashuis eksperimente is die geïdentifiseerde fases van gewas waterstremming gebruik om onttrekkingsvlakke vir kokosveen te bepaal en toe te pas as besproeiingskeduleringstrategie vir kweekhuis komkommer en tamatie plante. Toegepaste vlakke is vir elke gewas vergelyk met ’n waterryke behandeling ten opsigte van die waterbalans komponente, opbrengs en watergebruiksdoeltreffendheid in verskillede sakgroottes. Resultate het aangedui dat besproeiing suksesvol bestuur is tot die voorafbepaalde wateronttrekkingsvlakke vir komkommer entamatie plante in kokosveen, deur gebruik te maak van in situ gekalibreerde kapasitansie sensors. Die onttrekking van water deur beide gewasse het verskil tussen klein en groot sakke, wat aangedui het dat verskillende sakgroottes verskillende besproeiingsbestuur strategieë vereis. Skedulering tot die hoogste voorafbepaalde onttrekkingsvlak het, in vergelyking met die waterryke behandelings, besproeiing verminder met 124 L m-2 in die klein en 240 L m-2 in die groot sakke vir komkommers, en 427 L m-2 in die klein en 487 L m-2 in die groot sakke vir tamatie plante. Opbrengste van kweekhuis tamatie plante in die groot plantsakke en komkommer plante in die klein en groot sakke is gehandhaaf of verbeter deur skedulering tot die hoogste onttrekkingsvlak (ongeveer 60% van beskikbare water inhoud), in vergelyking met die waterryke behandeling. Die kombinasie van verminderde besproeiing en verbeterde of gehandhaafde opbrengste het gelei tot verbeterde watergebruiksdoeltreffendheid (besproeiing en transpirasie) vir die hoogste onttrekkingsvlak, in vergelyking met die waterryke behandelings. In al die glashuis eksperimente het die waterryke behandeling gelei tot oorvloedige watergebruik deur plante. ’n Finale studie is uitgevoer om gewas waterstremming van kweekhuis komkommer en tamatie plante wat onderwerp is aan oorvloedige watervoorsiening deur agt keer per dag te besproei en sikliese watertekorttoestande, te vergelyk. Die vergelyking is gebaseer op die transpirasie verhouding en opbrengs, terwyl die gebruik van kapasitansie sensors vir besproeiingskedulering in kokosveen vir beide gewasse geëvalueer is. Transpirasie data het aangedui dat komkommer en tamatie plante wat onderwerp is aan oorvloedige watervoorsiening vroeër waterstremming ervaar as plante wat onderwerp is aan sikliese watertekorttoestande, ongeag van die sakgrootte. Resultate het aangedui dat besproeiingskedulering volgens wateronttrekkingsvlakke vir klein sakke nog nie aanbeveel kan word vir kweekhuis tamatie en komkommer plante alvorens verdere navorsing gedoen is nie. Skedulering tot wateronttrekkingsvlakke vir groot sakke word egter geregverdig deur die verbeterde of gehandhaafde opbrengste van kweekhuis komkommers en tamaties. Die beraamde laagste onttrekkingsvlakke vir groot sakke wat nie opbrengs betekenisvol sal beïnvloed nie is 85% vir tamaties en 70% vir komkommers. Ten slotte dui die resultate duidelik daarop dat die gebruik van kapasitansie sensors in groot plantsakke besproeiingsbestuur van hidroponiese komkommers en tamaties in kokosveen verbeter deur oorbesproeiing uit te skakel en die watergebruiksdoeltreffendheid te verbeter. Meer navorsing is nodig alvorens ’n gevolgtrekking gemaak kan word ten opsigte van besproeiingskedulering met kapasitansie sensors in klein plantsakke.

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