Nitrogen and Phosphorus Preconditioning of Small-plug Seedlings Influence Processing Tomato Productivity

in HortScience

Seedlings of processing tomato `H 2653' (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) were cultured in 288-cell (< 6 cm3 volume) plug trays in a soilless growing medium. Pretransplant fertilization with nutrient solutions containing 10 or 20 mm N and 2 or 5 mm P for 10 days altered the total ammoniacal-N and P, and the soluble NO3-N and PO4-P concentrations in the shoot tissue at transplanting. Post-transplanting shoot and root growth were more rapid in late May plantings than in earlier plantings. The 20-mm N and 2-mm P pretransplant treatment caused the most rapid shoot growth following early season plantings in the field. Rapid seedling establishment after transplanting was generally not a good indicator of potential fruit yield. The 5-mm P pretransplant treatment produced higher marketable fruit yields in early plantings but not in later. Culture of seedlings under a low fertilization regime (5.4 mm N, 1.0 mm P, and 1.6 mm K) before pretransplant treatment produced as high or higher fruit yields than did seedlings from a higher regimen. Withholding fertilizer temporarily before transplanting resulted in a depletion in tissue N and P concentrations, slow post-transplanting shoot growth, and lower yields.

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