Weather-Based Irrigation Management Program for Container Nurseries

Water conservation is a critical issue for Florida’s container nursery industry. To help growers apply irrigation water in proportion to plant demand, Jeff Million, Tom Yeager (UF/IFAS Dept. Environmental Horticulture) and Craig Warner (UF Dept. of Astronomy) developed a web-based container irrigation management program (CIRRIG) that automatically outputs daily irrigation run times based on weather data collected on-site and plant production conditions monitored in each irrigation zone created by the user. When interfaced with a computer-controlled irrigation system, CIRRIG output can be used to automatically adjust irrigation run times in the nursery. A grant from Cherry Lake Tree Farm is being used to evaluate CIRRIG in Groveland, Florida. Also a grant from the Southwest Florida Water Management District is supporting an evaluation at Hibernia Nursery in Webster, Florida. These two container nurseries provide an excellent opportunity to evaluate the program in large-scale, commercial settings. For each evaluation, CIRRIG is being compared to the nursery’s current irrigation practice with regards to cumulative irrigation water applied (measured with flowmeters) and plant growth and quality. CIRRIG technology is being evaluated in both sprinkler (trade 3-gallon) and micro-irrigated (trade 15-gallon) areas. The goal of the two projects is to support the adoption of an irrigation best management practice by the container nursery industry.