UC Nursery and Floriculture Alliance
University of California
UC Nursery and Floriculture Alliance

ABCs of Fertilizer and Irrigation Management

by Don Merhaut

Forty-six floriculture and nursery growers and allied industry representatives attended the UCNFA ABCs of Fertilizer and Irrigation Management and Best Management Practices (BMPs) meeting in Azusa, California on June 23, 2011. Colorama Wholesale Nursery hosted the meeting and provided use of their facilities.  The program was presented in Spanish by Drs. Lea Corkidi and Maria de la Fuente.  There were four sections to the program:  (1) a summary of fertilizer BMPs and the Ag Waiver Program, (2) a review of plant physiological concepts that directly impact a plant’s ability to absorb and translocate nutrients, (3) an overview of essential plant nutrients — their role in plant functions and the fertilizer products available to provide these nutrients, and (4) irrigation and water recycling practices that mitigate nutrient and pesticide runoff.

The morning program concerned fertilizer BMPs. During this time, a training was provided on fertilizer bag labeling — how to calculate actual nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.  In addition, topics that were discussed included the pros and cons of different fertilizer compounds, what chemical and environmental factors influence the longevity of fertilizer release, and BMPs related to the use of granular and polymer coated fertilizers.

After the fertilizer BMP portion of the program was completed, lunch was graciously hosted by Everris NA, Inc., makers of Osmocote® and Peters® fertilizers.  After the lunch, Nursery Manager Bill Le Valley led a tour demonstrating various technologies used by Colorama to mitigate nutrient, pesticide and sediment runoff.  These processes included flood irrigation, fog irrigation and water recycling.  Karen Stringer of Everris Inc. then demonstrated the use of different Osmocote® controlled release fertilizers (fig. 1), including a new product called Osmocote™ Pro with Fusion Technology,™ a controlled release fertilizer with an adhesive-type coating that makes the fertilizer prills “sticky,” so that they don’t fall out of the container if the container is knocked over.

ABCs fig 1

Fig. 1. Karen Stringer of Everris Inc. demonstrating the proper use of different controlled release fertilizers.

After the tour, participants returned to the meeting room where Dr. Maria de la Fuente explained key concepts regarding the chemical and physical properties of media that would aid in the mitigation of nutrient and pesticide runoff from production (fig. 2).  The last section of the workshop focused on irrigation and water management BMPs that mitigate nutrient and pesticide runoff, highlighting the demonstrations seen during the tour.

ABCs fig 2

Fig. 2.  Dr. Maria de la Fuente explaining concepts of irrigation technology to growers.

ABCs of Fertilizer and Irrigation Management is a UCNFA workshop that has been presented in three locations in California: Ventura, Azusa and Vista. In keeping with our objective of reaching Hispanic audiences who make up a large part of the ornamental production industry, the meeting has been presented in Spanish in all three locations. UCNFA is hoping to have another ABCs of Fertilizer and Irrigation Management workshop in 2012, possibly in the Central Valley. Stay tuned to the UCNFA events website: http://ucanr.org/sites/UCNFA/

Don Merhaut is a UC Cooperative Extension Specialist for Nursery and Floriculture Crops, Department of Botany and Plant Sciences, UC Riverside.  Funding for this meeting was provided in part through a contract with the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB). The contents of this presentation do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the SWRCB, nor does mention of trade names or commercial products constitute endorsement or recommendation for use.

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