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  Eur.J.Hortic.Sci. 80 (2) 81-86 | DOI: 10.17660/eJHS.2015/80.2.6
ISSN 1611-4426 print and 1611-4434 online | © ISHS 2015 | European Journal of Horticultural Science | Original article

Growth and water use efficiency of potted Murraya paniculata as affected by irrigation system and container size

G. Fascella1 and Y. Rouphael2
1 Consiglio per la Ricerca in Agricoltura e l’Analisi dell’Economia Agraria, Unità di Ricerca per il Recupero e la Valorizzazione delle Specie Floricole Mediterranee, Palermo, Italy
2 Department of Agricultural Sciences, University of Naples Federico II, Portici, Italy

Irrigation system and pot size can affect the growth and development of containerized ornamental crops. A greenhouse experiment was carried out from November 2011 till July 2012, in order to determine the influence of two irrigation systems (closed drip-irrigation or subirrigation) and two pot sizes (∅ 14 or 18 cm) on growth, chlorophyll content, leaf gas exchanges and water use efficiency (WUE) of potted Murraya paniculata. Subirrigation offered promising potential for M. paniculata when compared to drip-irrigation given the similar growth and the higher WUE. Lower variation of the electrical conductivity in the subirrigation in comparison to drip-irrigation represents a crucial aspect for the simplification of the nutrient solution management. Increasing the pot size from 14 to 18-cm diameter yielded plants with 156%, 30%, 43%, and 138% more shoot biomass, height, leaf number and area, respectively. Best performance of plants grown in 18 cm-pots was attributed to higher net photosynthesis and SPAD index (by 35% and 16%, respectively), suggesting that suitable manipulation of container volume and switching from drip-irrigation to subirrigation will yield high quality potted M. paniculata and improve WUE.

Keywords closed loop system, drip-irrigation, photosynthesis, pot size, SPAD index, subirrigation

Significance of this study

What is already known on this subject?

  • A wide range of closed soilless systems have been developed for potted ornamental plants. Drip-irrigation is the most common irrigation practice in potted ornamental and vegetable crops. Recently, there is a high interest in subirrigation as an efficient alternative to drip-irrigation systems for potted ornamental production.
What are the new findings?
  • Subirrigation should be preferred due to similar biomass of drip-irrigation, higher WUE and less variation of EC in the nutrient solution leading to a simplification of nutrient management in closed soilless systems. The results also demonstrated that increasing container volume resulted in larger Murraya paniculata plants and higher WUE.
What is the expected impact on horticulture?
  • These findings might play a crucial role in management decisions by growers, thereby contributing to enhanced ornamental production.

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Received: 28 October 2014 | Revised: 3 March 2015 | Accepted: 10 March 2015 | Published: 22 April 2015 | Available online: 22 April 2015

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