Nursery Optimization

For container nurseries, the costs of large infrastructure, nutrient usage, and water demands are significant. Careful management of these components is necessary for profitability. A computer-based decision tool for irrigation, fertilization, and container spacing has been developed to help answer management questions. This is a web-based tool that estimates the outcomes of various "what if" scenarios that nursery growers may wish to simulate.

predictive tool development

Optimize irrigation water use

Despite the ability of container substrates to provide suitable environments for root growth, container volume is very limited. As a result, frequent irrigation is a necessity. All irrigation systems must be calibrated regularly to ensure even and accurate water distribution. The predictive tool can help growers estimate the proper irrigation rate to maximize plant growth.

Optimize plant nutrients

Nutrient holding capacity of container media is typically limited. In this context, frequent irrigation encourages nutrient leaching. There are several important factors relating to fertilizing containers:

  • Controlled release fertilizers limit nutrient loss compared to soluble fertilizers
  • Plants take up as little as 30-50% of nutrients applied as controlled release fertilizers
  • Fertilizers leach more rapidly from container substrates than native soil
The predictive tool can also help growers estimate how altering fertilizer rates might impact growth.

Optimize runoff volumes

The plant's water use must be considered to ensure efficient irrigation and quality plant production. This allows for maximum water savings by preventing water application when plants do not need additional water. Additionally, it enhances plant quality by applying water when they need it instead of when the next scheduled irrigation cycle arrives.

Optimize container spacing

Spacing of containers is an important component that greatly impacts irrigation efficiency. Plant size and growth stage determine container spacing. Canopy interception of water can prevent irrigation from being deposited into the media. Thus, a high percentage of water is wasted. This percent waste increases as canopy size and density increase.

The predictive tool is able to map the amount of canopy interception that occurs as plant age and size increase.

Optimize your bottom line

This decision tool for container plant production can help managers make decisions that will enhance the nursery's bottom line. The benefits of this decision tool with regard to total profitability allow operations to:

  • Produce quality plants while minimizing water and fertilizer waste
  • Space plants to limit waste
  • Better understand how water and nutrients move in the nursery
  • Construction cost benefit analyses for each decision
  • Alter plant selections to suit locations
  • Select bets planting dates
  • Estimate production times

After development of this decision tool is complete, we will provide further information on its use and web location.