Watermelon is a noteworthy vegetable crop because it is produced in several countries worldwide. Watermelon consumption is important for humans, due to its high beta-carotene and lycopene content and the fact that it is a rich source of antioxidants, which can prevent diseases (Charoensiri et al., 2009).
To meet market demands, it is essential to observe the nutritional status of plants during cultivation, especially regarding macronutrients, because, when present in adequate concentrations, they improve fruit visual, nutritional, and flavor quality. The identification of nutrient deficiency symptoms is relatively complex, due to the various biological functions and interactions that occur between nutrients and the environment, and even similar species exposed to nutritional stress have displayed different nutrient absorption rates and utilization, influencing plant growth and development (Berry, 2016).
Plants exhibiting low utilization of certain nutrients when cultivated in nutrient-deficient environments are expected to display impaired growth and development (Prado, 2008). Therefore, knowledge in this regard is useful to improve nutritional management, which may require higher doses of certain nutrients, given their low utilization efficiency, reducing possible plant growth and productivity losses.
Information on nutritional disorders in watermelon plants is scarce, and the available results are not well understood. Some studies have reported nutritional deficiency symptoms over time and linked them to nutrient accumulation at the end of their cultivation (Costa et al., 2017). However, there is a need to link macronutrient deficiency with alterations in plant biological processes, such as those that affect nutrient absorption efficiency and utilization and their effects regarding differential dry matter accumulation in the aerial portions in relation to the root system. These studies are, therefore, essential, because watermelon cultivation in many regions worldwide is carried out in environments displaying low nutrient availability, and knowledge regarding nutritional efficiencies in these cases is useful for the nutritional management of the species.
Thus, taking into account the hypothesis that a) the size of dry matter mass accumulation loss in watermelon is dependent on the deficient nutrient, and b) nutritional efficiency can be increased depending on the deficient nutrient, the aim of the present study was to evaluate the growth and nutritional efficiency of watermelon plants grown in a nutrient solution lacking several essential macronutrients.
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