Main content area

Developing Moisture Characteristic Curves and Their Descriptive Functions at Low Tensions for Soilless Substrates

Altland, James E., Owen, James S. Jr., Fonteno, William C.
Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science 2010 v.135 no.6 pp. 563
soilless culture, soilless media, bark, peat, pumice, water content, water holding capacity, logit analysis, statistical models
Moisture characteristic curves (MCC) relate the water content in a substrate to the matric potential at a given tension or height. These curves are useful for comparing the water-holding characteristics of two or more soils or soilless substrates. Most techniques for developing MCC are not well suited for measuring low tensions (0 to 100 cm H2O) in coarse substrates used in container nursery production such as those composed of bark. The objectives of this research were to compare an inexpensive modified long column method with an established method for creating low-tension MCCs and then to determine the best model for describing MCCs of bark-based soilless substrates. Three substrates composed of douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) bark alone or mixed with either peatmoss or pumice were used to compare models. Both methods described differences among the three substrates, although MCC for each method differed within a substrate type. A four-parameter log-logistic function was determined to be the simplest and most explanatory model for describing MCC of bark-based substrates.