Substrate wettability is an important factor in determining effective and efficient irrigation techniques for container-grown crops. Reduced substrate wettability can lead to lower substrate water capture, excessive leaching and poor plant growth.
A recent study examined substrate water capture using surface and subirrigation under three initial moisture contents (IMC). Sphagnum peat moss, coconut coir, and pine bark were tested at IMCs of 67% 50%, and 33%.
Substrate water capture was influenced by both IMC and irrigation technique. Surface irrigation increased the water capture of coir and peat, regardless of IMC, whereas IMC influenced pine bark water capture more than irrigation method.
Surface-irrigated coir at or above 50% IMC provided the greatest water capture across all treatments. The first irrigation had the highest capture rate compared to all other events combined. Container capacities of pine bark and coir were unaffected by IMC and irrigation type, but the CC of peat was less by ~ 40% volumetrically under low IMC conditions.
Coir, had the greatest ability to capture water, followed by pine bark and peat, respectively. Moisture content, irrigation type and component selection all influence the water capture efficiency of a container substrate.