Abstract

Drought limits plants growth. In many parts of the world, crop productions depend on water availability. Seed germination is a sensitive and low water stage in plants. A pot experiment was designed to test the effect of dew-irrigation on seed germination percentage of fennel, flax, and fenugreek. Irrigation treatments included dew-irrigation and control (non-irrigation). Results showed that dew-irrigation increased seed germination compared to control. Treatment of dew-irrigation had seed germination of 92.7%, 78.7% and 63.5% for flax, fenugreek, and fennel, respectively. But none of the seeds of control treatment germinated. Among plants studied, flax which is a cold season plant had the highest percentage of germination by dew-irrigation, and the plants that are the most heat-sensitive, such as fenugreek and fennel, had the lowest germination percentage. Results of this experiment determined that the moisture content in the air is capable to provide the necessary moisture for seed germination of the plants studied. In conclusion, dew-irrigation, due to supply low water, is better to be used at stages with lower water requirement such as germination. The ability of water supply by dew-irrigation at whole plant stage can be studied in the next experiments.

INTRODUCTION

Agricultural production should be increased to meet the growing food needs of the population. The green revolution and the use of fertilizers and irrigation increased agricultural production. With the onset of the Green Revolution in 1960, extensive use of fertilizers, irrigation development and the introduction of more-yielding crops controlled the global famine in the last century (Shah & Strong 2000). By increasing population and water resource constraints, many countries will face water scarcity by 2025 and competition for freshwater increases (Rosegrant et al. 2002). Observations of plants that naturally showed air humidity as dew on their leaves was a point for starting research to collect water from humid air. The collection of fog by plants and experiments on vegetation began in the late eighteenth century. On the other hand, the collection of fog by man-made collector has created a relatively new field of research. Where water supply, even at a high cost, is justifiable, the design and manufacture of energy-fueled appliances to produce fresh water is practically common (Bazargan & Ahmadi Alibeigloei 2014). One of the first works on getting water from humidity was carried out in Russia. This system was made up of vertical and sloping canals under the ground to collect water from ambient air. Water was generated by cooling the air to a temperature below the dew point temperature below the soil. These systems are known as water condensation systems (Mohammadi 2012). According to a study on the extraction of water from humidity in arid areas, millions of liters of water can be obtained from atmospheric vapor (Beysens et al. 2006). With the introduction of a condensation irrigation system in Turkey and economic forecasts, this method has the potential to compete with traditional irrigation methods (Gustafsson & Lindblom 2001). It was also found in an experimental design that 1.8 liters of drinking water per meter of pipe per day were produced (Lindblom 2006). In rich oil countries such as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, about 95 percentages of stills are worked by fossil fuels (Chaibi 2000). The main problem with the use of solar energy in large-scale stills is relatively low production rates (about 3–4 liters of water per square meter per day in passive solar cells), low thermal efficiency and significant area (Naim & Abd El Kawi 2002). Sarparast et al. (2014) found that areas with a relative humidity of more than 70%, wind speed of less than 3 m/s and more sunny days have a potential to be selected for dew harvesting. By evaluating the performance of five passive surfaces for dew harvesting, it was found that dew formation was strongly correlated with the air relative humidity (Maestre-Valero et al. 2015). Dew harvesting can be improved by equipment such as insulation (polystyrene foam), special foils, or paint (Kaseke & Wang 2018). Among dew harvesting systems, condenser-on-roof (CoR), condenser-on-ground (CoG) and Roof-as-Condenser (RaC), the CoR and CoGs produced higher dew water but needed higher investment. The cost of dew water was the lowest in the RaC among other systems (Sharan 2011).

Micro-irrigation methods are a subset of under pressure irrigation techniques with more benefits. Dew-irrigation can be grouped in subsurface and micro-irrigation. The origin of the sub-surface micro-irrigation method is ancient Iran, which later expanded to other Asian and African countries (Bainbridge 2001; Abu-Zreig et al. 2009). Micro-subsurface irrigation methods are technologies that have multiple and unique advantages in terms of agronomic issues, conservation of water and soil resources. These methods are economical and are considered as suitable solutions for water scarcity. The advantages of micro-subsurface irrigation are water consumption reduction, growth increase, crop quality and quantity increase, water productivity increase, reduction of the risk of salinity for plants, modification of the application of fertilizers and chemicals, weed control, energy-saving, agricultural operations facilitation, soil structure improvement and the environment protection (Zarei & Shahpari 2014). The results of the application of sub-surface drip irrigation system on more than 30 plant species have led to an increase in yield compared to other irrigation methods, including surface drip irrigation. Besides, the amount of water used has been lower (Camp 1998). Comparison of two systems of surface and sub-surface drip irrigation on sugar beet plant has shown that while water use decreased by 20% in sub-surface drip method, the amount of its product is significantly higher than that of surface drip method (Sakellariou et al. 2002). Edstorm & Schwankl (2002) evaluated three systems of surface, subsurface drip and micro-jet irrigation on almond trees for 10 years. According to the results of this research, although the micro-jet system in some years and on some cultivars showed up to 10% increase in production but, in general, the difference among these three methods of irrigation was not significant in terms of crop production. The dry weight of the root of corn was significantly increased by subsurface drip irrigation method compared to surface irrigation. Also, the highest corn root accumulation in surface and subsurface irrigation was reported in 0–10 cm and 20–30 cm soil layers, respectively (Hernandez et al. 1990). Plants with the highest root length and the number of lateral roots have more tolerance to drought than other plants (Singh et al. 2000). Further development of roots under drought conditions helps to absorb more water and nutrients and increase growth under stress conditions (Rahbarian et al. 2011). The plants are sensitive to drought at the germination stage, emergence of seedling and developmental stages (Mass 1986). Drought reduced germination percentage, root length, seedling weight and seed vigor in black cumin (Kabiri et al. 2012). Seed germination of Eremosparton songoricum is sensitive to drought and this plant cannot tolerate prolonged dry periods (Li et al. 2013). Drought caused by polyethylene glycol reduced germination percentage, root length, and seedlings weight in lentil (Muscolo et al. 2014) and germination percentage in tomato (Jokanović & Zdravković 2015). Dew-irrigation is a new irrigation method. More information is needed to be collected about this irrigation method. Ability of plant seeds to germinate under low temperature and low water created by dew-irrigation was a question that was investigated in this research. Plant species are categorized into warm-season and cold-season plants, so three plant species were selected to determine sensitivity to temperature. The primary goal was to determine seed germination under dew-irrigation. The secondary goal of this experiment was application of response surface method to determine the highest seed germination percentage of fennel, flax, and fenugreek, under dew-irrigation and control.

MATERIALS AND METHODS

Time, place and treatments

This research was conducted at the research greenhouse of the Agricultural and Natural Resources Campus of Razi University in Kermanshah in 2016. This research was carried out as a factorial experiment based on a completely randomized design with three replications. Irrigation method and plant species made the factors. The irrigation methods included: (a) dew-irrigation and (b) control (without irrigation). Plant species included flax, fenugreek, and fennel.

The most widely used irrigation methods

Surface irrigation is one of the ancient and widely used irrigation methods in some Asian countries. Under pressure irrigation methods such as sprinkler and drip irrigation are of modern irrigation methods. But in arid and semiarid areas, sprinkler irrigation has high evaporation due to wetting air, plant and surface soil. In these areas, due to high evaporative demand and wind speed, sprinkler irrigation is rejected. Drip irrigation has lower evaporation in arid and semiarid areas, but it also has some problems such as sealing dropper (Darouich et al. 2014; Zarei & Heidari 2018). Dew- irrigation is a new irrigation method suitable for arid and semiarid areas because it has low evaporation and solves some problems of drip irrigation such as sealing droppers and salinity. Due to high salts in irrigation water and soil in arid areas, any irrigation can increase salinity problem, while dew-irrigation produces distilled water for irrigation and cannot increase soil salinity (Aybar 2007).

Irrigation method

Eighteen pots with a diameter of 25 cm and a height of 19 cm were used. An ice container of 13 cm diameter and a height of 14 cm was embedded within each pot. 100 seeds with 300 g of soil were mixed then placed in a lace fabric. The lace fabric containing soil and seed was placed on the floor of the pot. Then the ice container was placed on it. In dew-irrigation, an ice mold (300 g) was placed within the ice container every day. In the control treatment, which contained pots similar to dew-irrigation, neither water nor ice was added to the pots. Due to the cold from the ice, the air temperature fell below the dew point and water was eventually produced. The generated water was absorbed by the soil and eventually reached the seeds. A view of dew-irrigation in a pot for seed germination is shown in Figure 1. In order to prevent the effect of moisture outside the pot on germination of seeds, including the roof of the greenhouse (in the greenhouse, due to factors such as the difference in temperature of night and day, water droplets were produced by dew, and there is the possibility of dripping from the ceiling of the greenhouse on the pot), the pots were covered by a nylon sheet. After 10 days, the mixture of soil and seeds was transferred to the laboratory. In the laboratory, the seeds were separated from the soil then the germinated seeds were counted and the germination percentage was obtained.

Figure 1

A view of dew-irrigation in a pot for seed germination.

Figure 1

A view of dew-irrigation in a pot for seed germination.

Statistical analysis

In order to determine the effect of each of independent variables in different surfaces on dependent variable, response surface method was used. A response surface graph shows borderline changes as well. So effects of irrigation methods (dew irrigation and control) and plant species (flax, fennel and fenugreek) as an independent variable on seed germination as dependent variable were assessed using response surface method. SAS software was used to perform response surface method. Different parameters such as R square, root-mean-square error (RMSE) and mean square were determined and used for decision making.

Data were tested for normality before analysis of variance. Data were also analyzed by the General Linear Model (GLM) procedure of SAS software. The GLM is defined as Data = Model + Error (Rutherford 2001). Mean comparisons were done by Duncan's Multiple Range Test (P < 0.05). Standard deviation was used to indicate the amount of variation of a set of data values.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

Response surface method for effect of irrigation methods and plant species on seed germination showed that 99% of variability was explained by the fitted model (R square = 0.9909, Table 1). Linear model and interaction between irrigation methods and plant species were significantly important (Tables 2 and 3), and quadratic model was not significant (Table 1). Lack of fit was not significant showing that the first-order model was adequate for the data. Low RMSE values indicated acceptable and close relationship of the values predicted by the model and the laboratory values (Table 1).

Table 1

Response surface analysis for effect of dew-irrigation method on seed germination of three plant species

S.O.VDFMean squareR2
Total model 7,212.5** 0.9909 
Linear 14,105.5** 0.9690 
Quadratic 0.340278ns 0.0000 
Crossproduct 638.020833** 0.0219 
Total error 13 20.397970 – 
Lack of fit 0.340278ns – 
Pure error 12 22.069444 – 
RMSE (%) – 4.516411 – 
S.O.VDFMean squareR2
Total model 7,212.5** 0.9909 
Linear 14,105.5** 0.9690 
Quadratic 0.340278ns 0.0000 
Crossproduct 638.020833** 0.0219 
Total error 13 20.397970 – 
Lack of fit 0.340278ns – 
Pure error 12 22.069444 – 
RMSE (%) – 4.516411 – 

**: Significant at probably level of 1%, ns: non-significant.

Table 2

Estimated parameters of response surface analysis for effect of dew-irrigation method on seed germination of three plant species

ParameterDFEstimateStandard errort value
Intercept 213.916667 11.661324 18.34** 
Plant species (P) −28.000000 9.929259 −2.82* 
Irrigation methods (Ir) −107.444444 5.632954 −19.07** 
P*P −0.291667 2.258206 −0.13ns 
Ir*P 14.583333 2.607551 5.59** 
Ir*Ir 
ParameterDFEstimateStandard errort value
Intercept 213.916667 11.661324 18.34** 
Plant species (P) −28.000000 9.929259 −2.82* 
Irrigation methods (Ir) −107.444444 5.632954 −19.07** 
P*P −0.291667 2.258206 −0.13ns 
Ir*P 14.583333 2.607551 5.59** 
Ir*Ir 

**, *: Significant at probably level of 1% and 5%, respectively, ns: non-significant.

Table 3

Analysis of variance (mean square) of effect of dew-irrigation method on seed germination of three plant species

Source of variationdfMean square
Plant species (P) 319.18** 
Irrigation method (I) 27,573.35** 
P * I 319.18** 
Error 12 22.07 
Source of variationdfMean square
Plant species (P) 319.18** 
Irrigation method (I) 27,573.35** 
P * I 319.18** 
Error 12 22.07 

**: Significant at probably level of 1%.

Analysis of variance showed that both simple effect and interaction of irrigation method with plant species on seed germination in fennel, fenugreek, and flax were significant (Table 3). Mean comparison for the interaction of irrigation method with plant species showed that treatment of dew-irrigation had seed germination of 63.5%, 78.7% and 92.7% for fennel, fenugreek, and flax, respectively. But none of the seeds of control treatment germinated. Flax had higher seed germination percentage than fennel and fenugreek (Figures 2 and 3). The results of a study in lentil showed that the small seed size cultivars had more tolerance to drought at the germination stage (Moradi et al. 2013). Drought reduces seed germination of black cumin (Nigella sativa) seeds (Kabiri et al. 2012), Eremosparton songoricum (Li et al. 2013), lentil (Muscolo et al. 2014), tomatoes (Jokanović & Zdravković 2015) and corn (Janmohammadi et al. 2008). By doing this greenhouse research, it was determined that the moisture content in the air is capable to provide the necessary moisture for seed germination of the plants studied. Other researchers have attempted to harvest dew from the air by methods such as metal-organic frameworks (Kalmutzki et al. 2018) and hygroscopic salt in a hydrogel–derived matrix (Kallenberger & Fröba 2018), but their studies have focused on non-agricultural uses. Regarding that, in our study, these plants are winter crop, medicinal plant and summer crop, the ability to germinate seeds of plants in agriculture using dew-irrigation is certain. Considering that plant seed germination is one of the stages with low water requirements, only some energy to low air temperature to the dew point can even germinate the seed in the field. It is necessary to look for a cheap system in this regard. In this research and similar researches, with the creation of a cold surface and the collision of the surrounding air molecules with this cool surface, the molecules of water vapor turn into the liquid phase. The air molecules' temperature then reaches the dew point and water is produced. One of the problems of dew-irrigation is energy supply. Solar ice maker is one of the options. The solar ice maker can produce about 5 kg ice per square meter of a collector, per sunny day (Energy Concepts Company 2018).

Figure 2

Mean comparison for seed germination percentage of three plant species under two irrigation methods. Means with the same letter have no significant difference according to Duncan's Multiple Range Test at P< 0.05. Dew and Co are dew-irrigation and control (non-irrigation), respectively. Error bar shows standard deviation.

Figure 2

Mean comparison for seed germination percentage of three plant species under two irrigation methods. Means with the same letter have no significant difference according to Duncan's Multiple Range Test at P< 0.05. Dew and Co are dew-irrigation and control (non-irrigation), respectively. Error bar shows standard deviation.

Figure 3

Response surface for seed germination percentage of three plant species under two irrigation methods.

Figure 3

Response surface for seed germination percentage of three plant species under two irrigation methods.

One of the advantages of this irrigation method is the generation of fresh water, which has no salt, so it is expected that seed germination by this irrigation method would be preferable even to subsurface irrigation methods such as drip irrigation. This is especially important in areas where irrigation water or soil is salty or that the seeds are sensitive to salinity. As mentioned, fresh water created by dew water has no salt but, in drip irrigation, especially with saline water, the clogging materials such as calcium-magnesium carbonates are of the main problems (Zhangzhong et al. 2019). Sharan et al. (2017) reported that dew water harvested from the atmosphere could be cheaper than that from reverse osmosis and did not contaminate the environment. One of the important results of the experiment that was considered before testing was whether the cold created by dew-irrigation could be effective on seed germination. The results of this study showed that among plants studied, plant such as flax, which is a cold season plant, had the highest percentage of germination by dew-irrigation, and the plants that are warm-season plants, such as fenugreek and fennel, had the lowest germination percentage. In a study, warm-season and cool-season legumes had the highest seed germination at 25 and 20 °C, respectively (Butler et al. 2014). Other researches also confirm the sensitivity of warm-season plants to low temperature compared to cool-season plants (Balkaya 2004).

Therefore, it can be said that using dew-irrigation method has some certain issues. Issues such as plant species (in terms of warm-season or cold-season plants) and the adjustment of the distance between the seeds planted in the soil and the source of the cold to reach the air temperature of the soil to the dew point should be considered. Other effective factors in this field should be investigated in future research.

Seed germination has a low water requirement, but farmers usually wet whole soil by heavy irrigation to have high germination. High water use, especially in warm seasons of the year, restricts water resources and is not a sustainable way in agriculture. In the warm season, even heavy irrigation by surface irrigation cannot provide well and uniform seed germination and seedling emergence. If field experiments with suitable equipment are designed, the other irrigation method such as dew-irrigation may solve these problems. We observed that dew-irrigation due to a little water production wets the spot around the seed to supply moisture for germination. So only a small spot of soil is wetted. This small spot is wet enough to germinate the seed. While in surface irrigation, lateral spreading of water was increased by wetted soil volume and water loss increase (Gärdenäs et al. 2005). By this way, water resources can be saved because there is no need to wet the whole soil surface by methods such as surface irrigation. If the dew-irrigation system is constructed under seed in the field, it is possible to not wet soil surface and reduces evaporation. As mentioned, one of the farmers' problems was uneven seed germination and seedling emergence. This problem is usually seen when seeds are sown in dry days of the summer especially in small size seeds because small size seeds should be sown shallowly. In dry and warm days of the year, the soil surface becomes dry fast and seedlings cannot establish. Some farmers shorten irrigation intervals, but this way cannot solve the problem of uneven seedling emergence and establishment completely. Dew-irrigation may solve this problem because water is constantly available to the seed. On the other hand, these spots are constantly moistened. So the seed is less susceptible to moisture deficit stress, while in the conventional irrigation methods the soil moisture fluctuates. High soil water at the beginning of surface irrigation method restricts soil oxygen and can disrupt germination processes (Kırmızı & Bell 2012). Before subsequent surface irrigation, the soil is dried and the seed germination process is disrupted due to water deficit stress (Jabereldar et al. 2017).

CONCLUSIONS

The purpose of the current study was to determine seed germination of fennel, flax, and fenugreek under dew-irrigation. This study showed that dew-irrigation can generate water for seed germination in flax, fenugreek, and fennel. Seed germination has a low water requirement, but in both surface and sprinkler irrigation, farmers usually wet whole soil by heavy irrigation to have high germination. In dew-irrigation, only a small spot of soil around the seed is wetted, so water resources can be saved. Germination has lower water requirement than other plant growth stages. Effect of dew-irrigation on other plant growth stages can be studied at the next experiments. The other major finding was that the cold season plant, flax, had higher seed germination than the warm season plant, fenugreek, under dew-irrigation. One of the advantages of this irrigation method is the generation of fresh water. This is especially important in areas where irrigation water or soil is salty or that the seeds are sensitive to salinity. It is suggested to study the effect of dew-irrigation on growth and yield of medicinal plant and drought tolerant plant under the arid area. Another suggestion is investigating the effect of different levels of energy and energy exchanges under dew-irrigation on water production, plant growth and yield.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

This work was supported by the vice-president for research affairs at Razi University.

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