DETERMINING FERTILIZER NITROGEN NEEDS FOR FRESH MARKET TOMATO IN KENTUCKY

in HortScience

Tomato fertility trials (1992–94) showed no yield response to fertigation N rates between 101–393 kg·ha–1. In 1995, soil Cardy NO3-N readings taken just prior to fertigation showed 53 kg NO3-N/ha in the top 30 cm. Laboratory test on the same sample showed 72.4 kg/ha (NO3 + NH4-N). Forty percent of the available nitrogen was NH4-N, which is not detected by Cardy meters. Soil mineral N levels were measured at fourth injection, second harvest, and 9 days after last harvest. On these dates the 0 kg N/ha treatment had 28, 24, and 8 mg N/kg available in the top 15 cm of soil, similar to the N fertigation treatments. As the growing season progressed, soil mineral N levels decreased, and 9 days after the last harvest residual soil N levels were close to those seen initially. Tomato petiole sap Cardy NO3-N readingsshowed a significant difference between the 0 kg·ha–1 treatment and those (84, 168, and 252 kg·ha–1) receiving N (512 ppm vs. 915, 1028, and 955 ppm NO3-N, respectively). Treatments receiving fertigation N gave petiole sap NO3-N readings higher than those listed by Hochmuth as sufficient for tomatoes. While the data showed a clear separation between the three N treatments and 0 N rate, no significant difference in yield of US #1 or US #2 large fruit occurred. This suggests that adequate N fertility was provided from O.M. mineralization. The highest N rate also had significantly more US #1 small and cull tomatoes than the other treatments. Some Kentucky soils have adequate residual N capable of producing commercial fresh-market tomato crops with little or no additional N. In addition to potential ground water pollution, overfertilization of tomatoes may decrease fruit size and reduce fruit quality by causing NH4-K + ion competition, as well as increase the risk of certain fungal and bacterial diseases.

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