Potential Evapotranspiration as a Means of Predicting Irrigation Timing in Greenhouse Tomatoes Grown in Peat Bags

in Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science

The use of potential evapotranspiration (PET) estimates to identify irrigation timing for greenhouse tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) grown in peat-based substrate was evaluated for a spring and fall crop. PET (using the Penman equation) was calculated from leaf, wet and dry bulb temperatures, and incident and reflected photosynthetic photon flux. Substrate matric potential (SMP) was monitored continuously using electronic tensiometers. Two irrigation starting setpoints (-4.5 and -6.5 kPa SMP) and two nutrient solution electrical conductivity (EC) treatments (1.5 and 3.0 dS·m-1) were factorially combined in a completely randomized design. Irrigation frequency was greater in treatments irrigated at -4.5 than at -6.5 kPa. The integral of calculated PET values was correlated with SMP for both experiments. Accumulated PET values were higher at the start of irrigation in the -6.5-kPa treatments for spring and fall crops. Nutrient solution EC did not influence irrigation frequency. Leaf pressure potential (LPP) was correlated to PET-predicted LPP (r2 > 0.56) in plants subjected to high EC, low (-6.5 kPa) matric potential setpoint, or both treatments. PET and electronic tensiometer technology can be used jointly to improve irrigation management for tomatoes grown in peat-based substrates by more accurately responding to crop needs for water and nutrients.

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