130 Impact of Fertilizer N Forms on Bedding Plant Development

in HortScience

It is a common practice in greenhouses to apply fertilizers with a high proportion of N in the NO3 form to achieve short, compact shoots and a moderate (25% or greater) proportion of NH4 or urea for large shoots. However, this practice is not substantiated in the scientific literature. Two experiments were conducted in a greenhouse to assess effects of N form on development. In the first, Petunia hybrida `Mid-night Dreams' was treated with five ratios of NH4:NO3 or urea:NO3 in a factorial arrangement with three concentrations of N (50-low, 100-adequate, and 200-high mg/L at each irrigation). In the second experiment six species of bedding plants were treated in a factorial arrangement of five ratios of NH4:NO3 and two pH levels (acceptably low, 5.4-5.8, and unacceptably low, 4.6-5.2). In all comparisons, height and dry weight of shoots grown with 100% NO3 were equal or larger than the plants grown with combinations of N. There was a general trend for plants to be shorter and lighter at higher NH4 or urea proportions. These results refute the hypothesis that shoot size is under the control of N form. Depth of green foliar color correlated positively with proportion of NH4 or urea. Reputed NH4 toxicity symptoms of chlorosis, necrosis, and curling of older leaves occurred only at adversely low pH levels below 5.2 in experiment 2. Resistance of plants to this disorder under conditions of pH levels in the range of 5.4 to 5.8, high N application rates, and applications of 100% NH4 indicates that bedding plants during commercial production are fairly resistant to this disorder.

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