Effects of Fertilizer Concentration and Minimum-leach Drip Irrigation on the Growth of New Guinea Impatiens

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  • 1 Department of Horticultural Sciences, Texas Agricultural Experiment Station, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843-2133

New Guinea impatiens `Barbados' (Impatiens ×hawkeri) were fertilized with solutions containing N at 6, 12, or 18 mmol·L-1 delivered from a drip irrigation system with either minimum leaching or standard leaching (0.3 to 0.4 leaching fraction). Irrigation was monitored and controlled by computers using microtensiometers placed in representative pots of each treatment. In two separate experiments, growth index, fresh mass, and dry mass were dependent upon both fertilizer concentration and irrigation treatment. Maximum growth overall was achieved at 12 mmol·L-1 N regardless of irrigation treatment; however, standard-leached plants receiving N at both 6 and 18 mmol·L-1 produced larger plants than did similarly fertilized minimum-leached plants. Leaf scorch, spotting, or marginal necrosis did not occur in any of the treatments. Leaf N, P, and K concentrations were highest in plants treated with N at 18 mmol·L-1, but Ca, Mg, and several micronutrients were highest in plants at 6 mmol·L-1 N. At the end of the cropping period for both experiments, growing medium electrical conductivity (EC) in the uppermost one-third layer of the pot was two to four times as high as that in the bottom two-thirds (root zone) layer. Root-zone EC ranged from 0.6 to 4.0 dS·m-1 and increased as fertilizer concentration increased. Standard leaching had little effect in reducing root-zone EC except in plants fertilized with N at 18 mmol·L-1. All plants continued to perform well and flower after 4 weeks in a simulated interior environment. Minimum-leach drip irrigation used ≈35% less solution than did standard irrigation with leaching, and eliminated N runoff.

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