Having optimum growth conditions in nurseries and greenhouses truly pays off. Capmat II enables efficient and controlled sub-irrigation, because it is designed to provide an excellent balance between capillary action and water retention capacity. Capmat II has optimal water and fertilizer distribution even on sloping benches due to the excellent capillary function. This gives exact control of the dry-wet cycle and uniform water distribution, which equals more uniform growing of each plant. All plants are properly cared for and have the best growing conditions. This improves the quality of each plant, reduces disease, fungus and rot due to controlled water hold. Capmat II has great strength even in wet conditions and has a long durability. It can be reused many times and is easy to clean with a high pressure washer.
Other commercially available capillary mat consists of multiple layers. These layers are polyethylene at the bottom with a mat center and are topped with a perforated black polyethylene cover. Ours is simpler and more cost effective. Simply place a layer of plastic down on the bench and lay Capmat II on top. The separately available Distribution Kit uses drip tape that run the length of the bench. Using a solenoid and a controller allows for the mat to be irrigated automatically. If desired, additional black or white plastic can be place on top and circles cut out for the pots to prevent algae growth.
It is essential to purchase pots with holes in the bottom, so the soil can touch the capillary mat. Use a potting mix with at least 25 percent being an aerating component like perlite. After plants are potted up, they need to be watered overhead and allowed to drain for a few minutes. Once established on the mat, a pot should not be moved while in production to prevent breaking the capillary connection of the pot to the mat.
The mat should be irrigated one to three times per day for as long as it takes to saturate the mat. It is important for the grower to know that the cap mat system is working correctly and that plants are receiving the correct amounts of water and fertilizer. This is based on the media density of individual pots and the temperature within the greenhouse. Some variance in pot moisture and fertilizer is to be expected. Pot moisture and electrical conductivity can be spot-checked with a sensor and meter or monitored continuously with a data logger system. Fast response, commercial capacitance sensors with short probes for measuring pot moisture and/or electric conductivity are the best method and are relatively inexpensive. Spot-checking should be done during the sunny periods when plant water use is expected to be the greatest.
Research aimed at retail nurseries confirm that capillary mats equate to labor savings. Being able to check the mats once per day in a fraction of the time that it would take to hand water or turn on and off a manual control system saves time. Time equals money.
Additionally, as roots always have fertilizer solution available to them, plants may not need as much fertilizer as with other methods.
Ellen Paparozzi, a professor of horticulture in the department of agronomy and horticulture at the University of Nebraska did a research study for two years — from September through mid-April — where more than 300 strawberry plants were grown on two benches in a double polyethylene greenhouse. Total water usage for each year ranged between 50 to 65 gallons.
Capmat II will lift water vertically 3”. When considering other capillary mats, test a sample first for its ability to lift water. If the material does not lift water it will allow water to settle in any low points on your bench, leaving pots on the high end dry and the low end over watered. Capmat II holds 22 fluid ounces of water per square yard. Offered in 4’ and 6’ widths in rolls of 100’, Capmat II can be cut to size and will not fray.
Capmat II offers an important alternative and a cost-effective way to automate watering, use water more efficiently and reduce groundwater contamination. Some plants, however, may not flourish under a constant water status regime. Before making a final decision to use a capillary mat system, take a small section of your greenhouse and test out this system to see if it works for your operation.
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For over 36 years Phytotronics has been an innovative manufacturer of precision equipment and supplies for the commercial greenhouse and nursery grower. Our Phytotronics line of mist controllers and related equipment, as well as the Rhizopon™ and Hortus IBA™ rooting hormones are used by professional plant propagators and growers across North America.