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Quantifying sorptive behavior of traditional horticultural substrate

The ability of a substrate component (organic or inorganic) to capture and retain water (hydration and wettability) is important to investigate and promote water-use–efficient practices. Many factors may play a role in the wettability of the material, including the processing of the material and its initial handling. The goal of this experiment was to determine the effect of moisture content (MC) on the sorptive behavior of substrates after an initial and secondary hydration cycle. Coir, peat, and aged pine bark were evaluated at 33%, 50%, and 66% MC by weight. At all moisture levels, coir and bark were minimally affected by MC or the initial hydration cycle. Peat was the most vulnerable to changes in sorptive behavior as a result of wetting and drying cycles. After a wetting and drying cycle, the maximum volumetric water content of peat from surface irrigation was reduced by 21.5% (volumetrically), more than three times any other treatment. The hydration efficiency of peat was improved when blended with as little as 15% coir. These experiments provide evidence that MC and initial handling of the substrate can lead to differences in initial water use efficiency.

Bartley, P. C., III, Yap, T. C., Jackson, B. E., Fonteno, W. C., Boyette, M. D., & Chaves-Cordoba, B. (2023). Quantifying the Sorptive Behavior of Traditional Horticultural Substrate Components Based on Initial Hydraulic Conditioning, HortScience, 58(1), 79-83. Retrieved Mar 10, 2023, from 

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