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The paper reports on changes in physical properties of growth media/substrates caused by frequent drying before re-irrigation. The peat/perlite mixtures were systematically dried to defined levels for 104 days in single pots, each including one Norway spruce seedling. Irrigation regimes were defined in relation to the volume of liquid in the substrates at container capacity when the experiment started (initially). Single pots were re-irrigated with nutrient solution as 10, 30, 50 and 70 % of that volume of liquid was consumed. Growth substrate volume and bulk density, and the fraction of perlite mixed with the peat were measured initially and at the termination of the experiment (finally). The volume fraction of gas filled pores was obtained gravimetrically at least once a day to describe changes in the liquid status of the growth substrates. The volume of substrate stayed constant in all irrigation regimes during the experimental period. The bulk density was independent of the fraction of perlite, but it was lower finally than initially for substrates subjected to the most frequent irrigation. The initial volume fraction of gas filled pores was negatively correlated with the initial bulk density, and the linear regressions depended on the fraction of perlite. The volume fraction of gas filled pores at container capacity (fgcc) increased during the experiment from .33 to .50 ml ml-1 for substrates subjected to the most dry conditions, and from .33 to .41 ml ml-1 in regimes allowing 30 and 50 % liquid losses. For substrates subjected to the least dry conditions, fgcc decreased from .30 to .26 ml ml-1. Initial and final fgcc was positively correlated. The linear regressions were different for the different irrigation regimes as indicated by their average changes described above.


Effects of growth medium physical conditions were studied. Peat and two series of peat mixed with hydrophobic mineral wool or perlite in three mixing ratios were prepared. Growth media porosities were characterized by the standardized time method and seedling development by measurements of stem length and fresh and dry weight.Seedlings grown in media containing mineral wool showed less mortality, were larger and had more living root apices than seedlings in media lacking mineral wool. Growth media influenced most the stem length and dry weights and was best at higher porosity. The difference between mineral wool and perlite amendments was greater for dry weight than stem length, although the effect of mixing ratio was observed for mineral wool only.The media induced qualitative differences in shoots (foliage spiralling) and roots (branching, number of living root apices, lenticel intumescence).


The method presented was based on a very simple approach of the forces operating in the pores of porous media. The standardized time (tv) needed to infiltrate a given volume of a liquid into a porous medium in a defined state was throught to be an integrated measure of pore geometry and continuity. The state of the pore system was defined by external suction (S) and medium porosity characterized by the parameters k1 and k2 in the equation tv=k1k2 S-0.5. The method theory was not rejected by experiments with glass beads and selected peat based growth media. The method ranked the media with respect to the probability for satisfactory gas exchange in the order of peat, peat and 26% perlite, peat and 34% perlite, and peat and 44% mineral wool. This ranking was achieved 95 days after the media were filled in containers and exposed to a daily watering procedure. Before this time, the ranking of the media was slightly different, if at all possible. Five days after the containers were filled, only peat and 44% mineral wood was significantly different from the other media. Judged by the standardized time method, the probability for satisfactory gas exchange decreased significantly during the 95 days experiment. This aggravation was supported by measurements of the volume fraction of pores filled with gas. The changes with time were least marked in the medium containing mineral wool.