A field experiment was established in 1993 in a 3-year-old `Empire'/M.9 apple orchard. An incomplete factorial treatment design compared nitrogen only fertilization with nitrogen plus potassium fertilizer applied either on the ground with and without trickle irrigation or through the trickle irrigation system. Timing of potassium fertigation treatments compared season-long K fertigation to early season or late-season K fertigation. Results of main effects showed that K fertilization reduced trunk cross-sectional area increase, but increased yield, fruit size, and fruit red color. There was no benefit of fertigation compared to ground application of fertilizers plus trickle irrigation. There was no effect of source of K fertilizer (KCl vs KNO3) on tree growth, yield, fruit size, or color. Time of K fertigation showed that late-season K fertigation resulted in greater trunk cross-sectional area increase compared to early season fertigation or season-long fertigation. Fruit size was greatest when K fertigation was done in the early season. There was no effect of time of fertigation on yield or fruit red color. Potassium fertilization increased leaf K levels and reduced leaf Mg levels. Time of fertigation did not affect leaf K levels, but early season fertigation resulted in higher leaf N levels.
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