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How Much Water???

By John Pohly, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension agent, horticulture

Did you know that those ears of corn you'll soon be munching on took up to four gallons of water a week to mature?

Each plant produces one or two ears, meaning that the amount of water to produce that ear is two to four gallons weekly. To produce an acre of corn, takes 350,000 gallons of water over a 100-day growing season.

To produce a pound of wood, hardwood trees use about 120 gallons of water. An average-sized birch tree has about 200,000 leaves. These leaves will transpire 20 to 100 gallons of water each day during the warmest part of the growing season.

More than 90 percent of the water that enters a plant passes directly through and evaporates into the atmosphere. If a human had a circulatory system similar to that of a tree, an adult would need to drink more than 20 gallons of water each day just to survive!

If a plant gets less than the required amount of water, it will be stunted and suffer stress. Stressed plants are more susceptible to infection by diseases than are unstressed plants. Evidence also indicates that stressed plants will attract insects more readily than unstressed plants.

Some xeric plants, which have evolved in areas of limited rainfall, require much less water than others. The Octillo, (Fourquieria splendens), is a plant native to New Mexico and Texas. It produces leaves after a rain and then loses them when conditions get dry. This is the ultimate in water conservation. That ear of corn, on the other hand. . . .

Photo of Octillo courtesy of UCLA

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Date last revised: 01/05/2010