Growth and Nutritional Efficiency of Watermelon Plants Grown under Macronutrient Deficiencies

in HortScience

Biological damage caused by macronutrient deficiency in watermelon plants is still not known, and may lead to nutritional disorders and alterations in absorption and utilization efficiencies, depending on the evaluated nutrient. In this context, the aim of the present study was to evaluate the growth and nutritional efficiency of watermelon plants grown under macronutrient deficiencies. The experiments were carried out in pots containing an aerated nutrient solution. Treatments consisted of the nutrient solution containing (control) or lacking nitrogen (−N), phosphorus (−P), potassium (−K), calcium (−Ca), magnesium (−Mg), and sulfur (−S), in a completely randomized design with three replications. At the end of the experiment with the onset of symptoms of deficiency, plant growth, green color index, nutrient accumulation, nutrient uptake, nutrient utilization efficiency, root density, and foliar deficiency symptoms were evaluated. P, K, Ca, Mg, and S deficiencies increased plant utilization efficiency and can potentiate watermelon development in environments deficient in these nutrients. The opposite was observed concerning nitrogen deficiency, because this condition induced greater biological damage, with low utilization efficiency, indicating the sensitivity of this species in low N conditions.

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    Absorption (A), utilization (B), and translocation (C) efficiencies for nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), and sulfur (S) in watermelon plants due to macronutrient omission compared with the controls (CS, complete solution) grown in the complete nutrient solution. The same letters in the graph bars indicate that the means do not differ by Tukey’s test at a probability level of 5%. For absorption efficiency minimum significant difference (MSD)−N: 0.08; MSD−P: 0.01; MSD−K: 0.05; MSD−Ca: 0.06; MSD−Mg: 0.01; MSD−S: 0.005. For utilization efficiency MSD−N: 340.6; MSD−P: 5088.9; MSD−K: 258.1; MSD−Ca: 1007.1; MSD−Mg: 4701.5; MSD−S: 6468.2. For translocation efficiency MSD–N: 8.56; MDS–P: 18.78; MDS–K: 10.77; MDS–Ca: 11.56; MDS–Mg: 8.23; MDS–S: 7.52.

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    Dry matter mass in watermelon aerial portions and roots (A), and in the entire watermelon plant (B), due to macronutrient omission compared with the controls (CS, complete solution) grown in the nutrient solution. Same letters in the bars indicate that the averages do not differ by Tukey’s test at a probability level of 5%. MSD (minimum significant difference)–shoot: 4.04; MSD–root: 0.65; MSD–whole plant: 4.59.

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    Nutritional deficiency symptoms in watermelon related to lack of nitrogen (−N), phosphorus (−P), potassium (−K), magnesium (−Mg) and sulfur (−S) in old leaves and calcium (−Ca) in young leaves compared with plants grown in the complete nutrient solution (with no macronutrient deficiency).

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