The cultivation of ornamental and horticultural crops needs elevated water amount. Since the problem of water shortage and water quality becomes more and more important year-by-year, new solutions have to be introduced to rationalize water consumption avoiding water shortage periods and water quality worsening (e.g. increasing water salinisation).

The usual practice of irrigation for container crops does not take into account real plant water requirements, entrusting the control to simple systems like timers. The detection of soil water potential in pots is one of the possible techniques to adapt water supply to real plant exigencies, reducing water consumption, without negative effects on the plants.


Work aims

Some information about Materials and Methods



Definition of methodology of water providing

Distribution of water according to the following procedures:

Field experiments

  1. reference treatment: irrigation controlled by timer (two daily irrigations at 9:00 and 18:00; water amount of 1.5 L distributed in a unique dose. A third daily irrigation was introduced late in the season when plants, for their dimensions, could suffer water shortage)
  2. treatment with the irrigation controlled by tensiometers: (water amount of 1.5 L distributed according to laboratory experiment results):

The tensiometers dedicated to watering control were connected to an electronic card, developed on purpose, able to read tensiometers values and to start/stop irrigation according to threshold value and protocol introduced in card software, turning on/off relative electric valves. The other tensiometers were connected to a datalogger.

The protocol foresaw three watering of 0.5 L each at an interval of 10 min. Each irrigation cycle was followed by a control of soil water potential. If the value was higher than 25 hPa (stop threshold) new waterings were applied until stop threshold was reached.

Measurements taken on 12 plants per treatment during the growing season to verify plant conditions:

Final measurementsfresh and dry biomass

Idri final



Methodology of water providing

Water amount stored and lost during each watering for the three tests (mean±sd).

Test Water amount distribuited (L) Water stored for each watering  (L) Total water stored (L) Total water lost (L)
1.5 0.740 ± 0.1 0.740 ± 0.1 0.760
0.75 + 0.75 0.612 ± 0.07 + 0.144 ± 0.04 0.756 ± 0.1 0.744
0.5 + 0.5 + 0.5 0.476 ± 0.04 + 0.276 ± 0.08 + 0.104 ± 0.04 0.856 ± 0.1 0.644