Target 2000 Update - Research and Demonstrations

TAMU Nursery/Floral Crops Research and Education Center:
Research and demonstrations have played an important role in developing strategies on surface and groundwater contamination, pesticide usage, solid waste disposal and energy consumption. Much of this work has taken place at the newly rennovated Nursery/Floral Crops Research and Education Center located on the campus of Texas A&M University. This facility provides an excellent opportunity for teaching, research and extension professionals to conduct multidiciplinary projects. The focus of much of this work is on the many environmental issues confronting the production of nursery and floral crops. Research and demonstration projects conducted under the Target 2000 are assisting growers become familiar with those technologies upon which tomorrows nursery/floral industry will be.

Insect & Mite Management:
Insects and mites can be serious pests of nursery/floral crops. A basic understanding of pest biology is critical in developing effective control tactics. The use of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is becoming increasingly wide spread as growers work towards reducing chemical use.

The biologically intensive IPM program now under development is providing the research based information necessary to assist growers establish scouting and monitoring systems in commercial nursery/floral operations.

Plant Disease Identification & Control:
Nursery/floral producers heavily rely on the use of fungicides to produce quality products. However, the process of identifying and controlling plant pathogens is complex. Proper identification of fungi and bacteria ensure that the most appropriate control meausres are used and that needless risks to the environment from improper use of chemicals is minimized.

The work currently underway on powdery mildew and botrytis is extremely critical in developing effective statagies for managing these plant pests. A thorough understanding of how control systems can be integrated in to a nursery/floral operation will improve a growers ability to produce disease free plant materials while protecting the environment.

Composted Municipal Yard Wastes:
Landfills are quickly becoming overwhelmed from municipal yard wastes. This source of solid waste represents approximately 10% of the total waste stream. This material is unique because it can be composted and used in a variety of horticultural applications.

Studies now underway are evaluating the use of CYT as a potential container medium for nursery/floral crops. When blended with other medium components, CYT offers an alternative source of growing media that can be used successfully while reducing the volume of materials entering the waste stream.

Nitrate Reduction Using Bio-Reactor Columns:
Nitrate frequently finds it's way into surface and groundwater resources as the result of uncontrolled irrigation runoff. Nursery/floral producers are now looking for ways to protect the environment while providing optimum crop fertility.

The nitrate reduction columns currently under investigation utilize facultative microorganisms, in an anaerobic environment, to convert nitrates to nitrogen gas. Flow through the columns is monitored by an in-line meter, via an analog to digital converter. This digital signal is processed by a 486 computer using an "off the shelf" data acquisition board with accompanying software. The rate of flow through the columns is controlled by a variable speed DC pump which permits the use of various hydraulic residence times.

Computer Controlled Water Blending:
Salinity is the primary limiting factor in the reuse of irrigation water. As the result of evaporation, the electrical conductivity (EC) of recycled irrigation water can rise above recommended levels. Initial salinity and fertility level also impact the resulting EC.

The most common means of addressing excess salts is by back blending recycled runoff with water of higher quality. The use of a computer monitored and controlled water blending system provides growers an opportunity to make real time corrections for changes in EC. This system also reduces the total volume of water required to meet quality specifications for crop production.

Irrigation Management Using Solid-State Micro-Tensiometers:
The efficient use of irrigation water is not only dependent on the type of delivery system used but also on how accurately the system is managed. Knowing when to turn the irrigation system on and off is critical to the production of high quality nursery and floral crops.

The system now in use constantly monitors soil moisture tension via an analog to digital converter. This digital signal is processed by a 486 computer. Soil moisture tension values are compared to a preset maximum and when this level is reached the return signal activates the irrigation pump. As water is applied to the crop, soil moisture tension decreases. Once the preset minimum has been reached the return signal turns the pump off.

Constructed Wetlands:
Nursery and floral crops require relatively large amounts of fertilizers and pesticides to produce a quality product. In addition, nursery and floral crops are among the highest water using plant materials grown commercially. As a result, there is a significant potential for surface and groundwater contamination from irrigation runoff.

The constructed wetlands system now being evaluated collects all irrigation and storm runoff from approximately 20,000 square feet of nursery and greenhouse production areas. This water first gravity flows to a 1000 gallon, underground reservoir, situated at the lowest end of the facility. The runoff is then pumped to a 2000 gallon, above-ground tank, which sits atop a 4 foot pad. This elevation provides enough head pressure to supply 10, 8'x3'x3' troughs, each filled with approximately 2' of coarse gravel. These troughs are planted with a variety of aquatic plants in an attempt to identify those with the greatest ability to take up fertilizers and pesticides. The effluent then flows from the troughs to a separate, 1000 gallon, underground holding tank prior to recirculation.

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