Traditionally, broadcast or foliar fertilizer applications sufficed to improve the nutrition of many irrigated, deciduous fruit orchards in western North America. Recent developments, including adoption of low-pressure, micro-irrigation systems and planting at higher densities (especially for apples), have increased interest in controlled application of fertilizers directly with irrigation waters (fertigation). The possibility of using fertigation to synchronize fertilizer application and plant nutrient uptake seems attractive as environmental concerns to minimize leaching of nutrients (especially N) to groundwater increase. Recent fertigation research in western North America will be reviewed and compared to traditional fertilizer application methods to assess the potential of fertigation to overcome inadequate nutrition. Emphasis will be placed on the use of soil solution monitoring to assess changes in soil NPK status. Tree response will be illustrated by studies in high-density orchards where N, P, K, Ca, B, or Zn have been fertigated.
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