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Foliar Salt Damage of Landscape Plants Induced by Sprinkler Irrigation

S. Miyamoto, John M. White

A controlled experiment and onsite observations of trees and shrubs at three large landscape areas in El Paso, Texas indicate that most flowering plants and broadleaf deciduous trees are susceptible to foliar salt damage caused by sprinkler application of moderately saline water (1000 - 1500 ppm). Evergreen shrubs with waxy or leathery leaves such as Euonymous, Pittosporum and Nerium oleander are tolerant to salts. Cupressus and Juniperus species are also more tolerant to salts than broadleaf deciduous trees, except for some species with less scaley leaf tissue, such as Cupressus arizonica and Thuja ssp.. All of the widely planted pines were found to be tolerant to sprinkler-induced salt damage. The actual plant damage depends on management practices with the most damage when broadleaf trees were irrigated daily with high-pressure sprinklers. Irrigation system design and management must incorporate potential leaf damage caused by sprinkler application of moderately saline water. These observations are reported in this publication in three parts; Part I describes growth and leaf injuries of twenty-eight plant species irrigated daily with sprinklers at three levels of salinity; Part II foliar salt damage in trees and shrubs sprinkler-irrigated in several landscape areas in El Paso; Part III addresses practical ways to minimize foliar salt damage induced by sprinkler irrigation.

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