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Agronomy Journal Abstract -

Managed Soil Moisture System for Studying Plant Water Relations under Field Conditions1


This article in AJ

  1. Vol. 71 No. 5, p. 861-865
    Received: Sept 9, 1978

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  1. H. F. Reetz Jr.,
  2. H. F. Hodges and
  3. R. F. Dale2



A Managed Soil Moisture System (MSMS) was installed at the Purdue Univ. Agronomy Farm for plant water relations research. Sixteen plots, each 6.1 m ✕ 9.8 m, can be controlled individually for water application and removal. The MSMS was designed on the principle of the Prescription Athletic Turf (PAT) system developed at Purdue. The area was excavated and lined with a moisture barrier. After the drainage/irrigation system was installed, the plots were filled to a depth of 40 cm with dune sand. During narmal. “non-moisture stress” operation a water table is maintained at a depth of 35 cm. Each plot has its own supply tank for monitoring the water use. An overflow allows drainage of excess rainfall, and a pump can be used to hasten drainage. Given a period of dry weather, this facility allows rapid adjustment of soil moisture for studying the effect of drought stress on plant growth. The plot size permits plant measurements and periodic destructive sampling without significantly affecting the crop canopy environment. In preliminary experiments in 1974, corn (Zea mays L.) grew normally to maturity with a water table at 35 cm. During a hot, dry period, severe leaf curling began on the stress plots 4 days after the drainage system was opened. Coupled with meteorological and soil water data, plant growth, and water potential measurements, this facility provides a relatively low cost means for studying environmental-plant response data under near-natural environments.

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