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University of Maryland Ornamental Irrigation Research

Nurseries and greenhouses are intensive production spaces where careful water management is critical to business.

As the climate changes, there will be more periods of hot and dry weather in the region. Efficiently managing water resources will be essential to maintaining water security in the future. University of Maryland researchers are studying the benefits of using a soil moisture sensor network to manage water in nursery and greenhouse operations. The sensors can help to optimize water usage by precisely scheduling how much water is applied to plants through the drip and spray irrigation systems. This practice can ensure that plants receive the appropriate amount of water and are only watered when needed. Avoiding overwatering is important, as this can limit the amount of nutrients that leach from containers. Less leaching reduces fertilizer costs and decreases runoff, which protects water quality in local waterways. Reducing water usage will provide additional cost savings to farmers who have to pay for their water. Soil moisture sensors can help farmers use water resources in a more efficient and effective manner.

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“Water security is very much tied in with climate change. What we are finding is that our well capacities are typically low in the piedmont areas anyway, and quite frankly, with increased urbanization and increased heat in the summer, we are being a lot more careful in how we manage our water resources, and groundwater resources in particular.  So, being able to capture and recycle water is incredibly important for growers who use irrigation because it (is) all about water security.”

- Dr. John Lea-Cox, Professor and Extension Specialist, University of Maryland

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8051 Sixes Bridge Road, Detour, MD 21757

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University of Maryland