Optimum Potassium Concentrations in Recirculating Subirrigation for Selected Greenhouse Crops

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

Two experiments were conducted to investigate the effect of K fertilizer rates on growth of New Guinea impatiens (Impatiens Hawkeri Bull.), vinca (Catharanthus roseus (L.) G. Don) and petunia (Petunia ×hybrida Hort. Vilm.-Andr.) in a recirculating subirrigation system. Based on a variety of growth parameters, a broad range of K concentrations allowed maximum growth, notably 1 to 6 mM for New Guinea impatiens `Ovation Salmon Pink Swirl', 2 mm for New Guinea impatiens `Cameo' and `Illusion', 2 to 8 mm for vinca `Pacifica Apricot', and 2 to 16 mm for petunia `Trailing Wave Misty Lilac'. Thus, the lowest concentration that allowed maximum growth was 1 to 2 mm K. A third experiment compared the optimum K concentration and K balance of vinca grown with recirculating subirrigation versus top-watering. Based on a variety of growth parameters of vinca `Pacifica Red', the lowest concentration that allowed maximum growth was 2 mm K with recirculating subirrigation and 4 mm K with top-watering. The K balance demonstrated that subirrigated plants were twice as efficient in K use compared to the top-watered plants. Leachate loss was the major contributor to inefficiency in top-watered plants. Electrical conductivity (EC) of the growing medium remained below the recommended level of 1.2 dS·m-1 in both irrigation methods at K concentrations of 16 mm and below in the bottom layer and 8 mm and below in the middle layer. In the top layer of the growing medium, EC was above the recommended level at all K concentrations tested in subirrigation at all concentrations, and in top-watering at 16 mm and above.

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