• Sarah Cruz

Water Conservation in Greenhouse Horticulture

Just as ending food injustice and feeding food deserts is the cornerstone to seeing change in the world, so is water access and conservation. Food and water are the staples of life, and go hand in hand when dealing with horticulture.

As we all know, plants need water to grow, making the use of water inevitable when growing produce.

At the Hearts of Gold Foundation, we're dedicated to researching different water conservation techniques that can be utilized in the production of greenhouse crops.

One technique that can be used to conserve water in the feeding of plants is a drip irrigation system.

"Drip irrigation is a slow water delivery system in which water can be applied, drop by drop, to the soil surface near the base of the plant. A properly designed automatic drip irrigation system can remove much guessing about when to irrigate and how much water to apply. Water is applied whenever the sensor indicates a sub-optimum soil moisture level. Using automatic drip irrigation systems, skilled greenhouse managers can:

  • Apply correct water amounts precisely when required to maintain optimum available soil moisture in the root zone.

  • Reduce management time required for observing plant water needs and manually controlling irrigation systems.

  • Keep leaf surfaces and stems drier because water drips directly on the soil instead of spraying in the air.

  • Prevent water puddling and splashing by applying water no faster than it will percolate into the soil.

  • Reduce incidence of leaf mold, gray mold-rot and other foliage diseases.

  • Reduce evaporation losses and fruit deterioration by keeping more soil surface dry.

  • Increase production if other factors are not limiting. (Source)"

This is a great resource to use, however it may not be as cost effective as other forms of watering.

Another form of water conservation is the catch system, which can be implemented in a couple different ways.

One way is rainwater catching, which is exactly what it sounds like. This can be as simple as placing waterproof containers outdoors and using the rainwater to water the greenhouse produce, which has been proven to create healthier plants than use of tap-water. This technique is especially useful in high-moisture areas such as Houston, where the Hearts of Gold Foundation is based and where we plan to build our first greenhouse!

Water catching can also be done underneath the plants. A water filtration system using gravel and charcoal can be placed underneath plant containers to catch excess water that is not absorbed by the plant. It then drips into the filtration systems, becomes filtered, and can be re-used for future watering, effectively eliminating water waste in the greenhouse.

The Hearts of Gold Foundation is very excited about the prospect of implementing water conservation is feeding food deserts. To learn more about what we're doing and how you can help, follow us on social media and check this out!

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