Characterization of Physicochemical and Hydraulic Properties of Organic and Mineral Soilless Culture Substrates and Mixtures
Many arid and semiarid regions of the world face serious water shortages that are projected to have significant adverse impacts on irrigated agriculture and create unprecedented challenges for providing food and water security for the rapidly growing human population in a changing global climate. Consequently, there is a momentous incentive to shift to more resource-efficient soilless greenhouse production systems. Though there is considerable empirical and theoretical research devoted to
... ch devoted to specific issues related to control and management of soilless culture systems, a comprehensive approach that quantitatively considers relevant physicochemical processes within containerized soilless growth modules is missing. An important first step towards development of advanced soilless culture management strategies is a comprehensive characterization of hydraulic and physicochemical substrate properties. In this study we applied state-of-the-art measurement techniques to characterize six soilless substrates and substrate mixtures [i.e., coconut coir, perlite, volcanic tuff, perlite/coconut coir (50/50 vol.-%), tuff/coconut coir (70/30 vol.-%), and Growstone®/coconut coir (50/50 vol.-%)] that are used in commercial production in Israel and the United States. The measured substrate properties include water retention characteristics, saturated hydraulic conductivity, packing and particle densities, as well as phosphorus and ammonium adsorption isotherms. In addition, integral water availability and integral energy parameters were calculated to compare investigated substrates and provide valuable information for irrigation and fertigation management.