Timer versus moisture sensor-based irrigation control of soilless lettuce: Effects on yield, quality and water use efficiency

https://doi.org/10.17221/312/2014-HORTSCICitation:Montesano F.F., van Iersel M.W., Parente A. (2016): Timer versus moisture sensor-based irrigation control of soilless lettuce: Effects on yield, quality and water use efficiency. Hort. Sci. (Prague), 43: 67-75.
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The study compares the effects of: timer (‘Timer’) and soil moisture sensor-controlled irrigation on soilless lettuce; two volumetric water content (Θ) thresholds for irrigation (0.30 (‘Θ = 0.3’) and 0.40 m3/m3 (‘Θ = 0.4’)). The most nutrient solution (NS) was applied in ‘Timer’ where the lowest water use efficiency was observed, with 17 and 42% less NS used in ‘Θ = 0.4’ and ‘Θ = 0.3’, respectively. Irrigation volumes followed the plant water needs in the sensor-controlled treatments, with little or no leaching, while 18% of leaching was recorded in ‘Timer’. Plants in ‘Timer’ and ‘Θ = 0.4’ had higher fresh weights (24%) and leaf area (13%) than plants in ‘Θ = 0.3’. Similar dry weight was observed among treatments but percentage of dry matter was 20% higher in ‘Θ = 0.3’. Gas exchanges and leaf tissues chemical composition were similar in all treatments, but nitrate concentration was lower in the ‘Θ = 0.3’ plants. Precision sensor-controlled irrigation based on Θ measurements is an effective tool to increase the overall water use efficiency and to improve the quality of soilless-grown lettuce by acting on the substrate moisture level. 
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