Irrigation and Fertilizer Application Methods Affect Performance of High-density Peach Orchards

in HortScience

Seven treatment combinations of irrigation and fertilizer were compared in a high-density (606 trees/ha) management system for peach [Prunus persica (L.) Batsch cv. Harrow Beauty/Bailey] on Fox sand in southwestern Ontario. Each treatment combination had an irrigation component (N = nonirrigated, D = drip irrigated, or M = microsprinkler irrigated) and a fertilizer placement component (B = banded fertilizer, L = low fertigation, or H = high fertigation). NB and DB are commonly used systems in Ontario, while the other five treatment combinations were experimental. Total soil water in the top 110 cm of soil was lowest under NB but was never at the permanent wilting point. Trunk cross-sectional area was largest under DH and DB, smallest under ML and NB, and intermediate for the other three treatment combinations. No symptoms of N or K deficiency or toxicity were noted for any of the fertilizer treatments. Leaf analyses in July and September indicated that most major and minor elements were in the adequate to slightly excess range. However, there were no significant treatment effects on leaf nutrient concentrations in July or September when averaged over the five years, except for Mg in July. There were large and significant year effects on leaf nutrient concentrations but no significant treatment × year interactions. During the first four cropping years, there were no significant treatment effects, averaged over years, for total yield, marketable yield, or cumulative yield efficiency; however, there were large year effects but no treatment × year interactions for these factors. There was no detectable yield advantage for D vs. M irrigation. B application of N and K promoted no higher yields than fertigation equivalent to the B rate or 50% of this rate. Fertigation of N and K during the first 4 years of this experiment did not provide a detectable yield advantage to warrant the added cost and labor associated with this system compared with the B applications of N and K.

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