Developing Alternative Methods/Techniques for Plant Establishment Under Reduced Irrigation
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Developing Alternative Methods/Techniques for Plant Establishment Under Reduced Irrigation

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      Final; Oct. 2004-Dec. 2008.
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    • Abstract:
      The purpose of the study was to evaluate soil treatments for their effect on establishment of wild-land shrubs without supplemental irrigation. The treatments that significantly improved growth over irrigation alone at a central California fill slope site (Contra Costa County, route 4) involved deep soil decompaction and/or compost addition. General information regarding use of water by plants and retention of water by soil or soil amendments was evaluated from literature reviews, by lab analysis and with plant water-use modeling. A method was developed to predict the plant water use and soil water availability characteristics that would allow field establishment of shrubs through dry summer conditions without supplemental irrigation. This method was then tested in different substrate and climatic conditions in three additional counties around the state (Sutter (route 70), Mono (route 395) and San Diego (I-5)). In all cases, shrubs on soil treatments including deep soil decompaction and compost incorporation grew larger than those on untreated substrates. No supplemental irrigation was used except to wet the profile once at time of planting, and even then only if ambient soil moisture was insufficient. The recommended treatment is to decompact the substrate by excavation or ripping or fracturing to three feet depth if the substrate is not already rootable, then to add an inch of compost and incorporate into the top foot (unless the area receives atmospheric deposition or contains residual soil organic matter or is in a desert environment), and then to plant containers with site-appropriate species and to cover the immediate area with two inches of wood chip mulch.
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