< Back to previous page


OrnAqua: A new irrigation reference framework for increasing water use efficiency in outdoor horticulture (OrnAqua)

Over the past 3 years, we have been experiencing more and more extreme weather conditions during the growing season, such as prolonged droughts and heat waves. Drought clearly has an economic impact on outdoor horticulture companies, since the external quality of the ornamental plant product, which is highly dependent on the climate, automatically determines the commercial value of the plant or flower stem. In addition, the government is increasingly imposing water use restrictions during periods of prolonged drought. To reduce the impact of drought risk on crops, outdoor growers have a strong demand for suitable tools including soil and plant sensors to control irrigation, but are also strongly interested in methodologies to retain water longer in the soil and other drought-mitigating measures. Both companies with and without irrigation application are asking for these tools and knowledge.

OrnAqua's overall objective is to provide growers with tools to rationally and sustainably incorporate the water factor into their operations while ensuring that commercial quality (length, diameter, uniformity of flowering, etc.) is maintained. The project includes on the one hand optimized growing techniques and new technologies to decide when irrigation is desirable and how much water is needed, based on soil moisture measurements whether or not in combination with water balance calculation models, plant evaporation via plant sensors and innovative integration of both. On the other hand, the project also has an eye for practical drought-mitigating cultivation techniques that can be applied to companies that do not (yet) switch to irrigation or companies that already irrigate but want to reduce the irrigation need.

This is concretely translated into the construction of a new reference framework for irrigation in floriculture with next steps divided into 5 work packages. In the first and second work package knowledge is built up and bundled. The translation of this knowledge is done in WP3, after which it is concretely applied in WP4. 
  • Identification of transpiration and soil moisture dynamics under non-limiting and limiting conditions during the growing season, for 3 cultivation systems (the hybrid system of pot chrysanthemums, crops with high plant density such as forest trees, crops with low plant density such as avenue trees). This is done by using soil moisture sensors and plant sensors. (WP1)
  • Identification of drought damage thresholds, using the sensor observations, for the above described cropping systems. (WP2)
  • Integration into the irrigation reference framework, this predicts drought based on modeling of soil moisture and irrigation demand by evaporation models, calibrated for the above crop systems. (WP2)
  • Transition to farm-based sustainable irrigation strategies based on the above knowledge acquisition. (WP3: extension of reference framework + WP4: practice validation)
  • Implementation of drought mitigating measures (mulching, biostimulants, ...) whether or not combined with irrigation. (WP4)
Finally, WP5 will ensure the dissemination of knowledge to the sector through the Water Advisory Service, workshops, study days and publications and the 1 to 1 practice-oriented advice.

This project is a collaboration between PCS Ornamental Plant Research, Ghent University and Bodemkundige Dienst van België 
Date:1 Dec 2021 →  Today
Keywords:irrigation, horticulture, pot chrysanthemums, avenue trees, forest trees
Disciplines:Horticultural crop production
Project type:Collaboration project