Ammonium Uptake Is the Main Driver of Rhizosphere pH in Southern Highbush Blueberry

in HortScience

Unlike most horticultural crops, blueberry (Vaccinium spp. section cyanococcus) prefers low-pH (4.2–5.5) soils. Other plants can acidify their rhizosphere to create a hospitable microenvironment. Southern highbush blueberry (SHB; Vaccinium corymbosum interspecific hybrids) plants do not acidify their rhizosphere in response to Fe deficiency, but other factors that affect rhizosphere pH have not been elucidated. We report results from two hydroponic experiments exploring N uptake effects on the rhizosphere pH of ‘Emerald’ SHB. Ammonium (NH4+) uptake led to rhizosphere acidification, whereas nitrate (NO3) uptake led to rhizosphere alkalization. When grown in a split-root hydroponic system, roots that took up NH4+ acidified the rhizosphere to a greater extent that roots not exposed to NH4+. Rhizosphere acidification was observed even in a nontreated control. These results suggest that NH4+ uptake is the main driver of rhizosphere pH in SHB. N form effects suggest that fertilization with NO3 might lead to undesirable rhizosphere alkalization.

Contributor Notes

This research was supported by the Thad Cochran Southern Horticultural Laboratory, U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service under NACA agreement no. 58-6062-5-005.

Corresponding author. E-mail: g.nunez@ufl.edu.

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