Development and Correction of K-deficiency in Drip-irrigated Apple

in HortScience

Various schedules of 40 g N and 17.5 g P/tree per year were applied with irrigation water (fertigation) to `Summerland McIntosh' apple (Malus ×domestica Borkh.) trees on M.9 rootstock commencing the year of planting. Leaf K concentrations averaged 0.82% dry mass, indicating deficiency, by the third growing season. This coincided with extractable soil K concentrations of 50-60 μg·g-1 soil in a narrow volume of the coarse-textured soil located within 0.3 m of the emitters. The decline in leaf K concentration was reversed and fruit K concentration increased by additions of K at 15-30 g/tree applied either as granular KCl directly beneath the emitters in spring or as KCl applied as a fertigant in the irrigation water. K-fertilization increased fruit red color, size, and titratable acidity only when leaf K concentration was <1%. Fruit Ca concentration and incidence of bitter pit or coreflush were unaffected by K application. NPK-fertigation commencing upon tree establishment is recommended for high-density apple orchards planted on similar coarse-textured soils.

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