Optimum Timing of Potassium Nitrate Spray Applications to `French' Prune Trees

in Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science

During the fruit growing season, April through August 1990, 1991, and 1992, four sprays of 20-22 liters/tree of KNO3 were applied to `French' prune trees (Prunus domestica L. syn. `Petite d'Agen). Spray applications of KNO3 were compared to single annual soil applications of KCl (1.4-2.3 kg/tree) and sprays of urea + KNO3 with respect to leaf K and N, fruit size, drying ratio, and dry yield. Potassium nitrate sprays were as effective, or better, than soil-applied K in maintaining adequate levels of leaf K throughout the season. Treatment effects were not carried over into the next year. Lowest leaf K was found in trees where no K had been applied. Those values were below the adequate level of 1.3% K and the untreated group developed K deficiency symptoms. Consistent effects on leaf K were not obtained when urea was applied and no negative effect on leaf K was demonstrated. Equivalent dry yields per tree were obtained by foliar and soil K applications. There was no best time for KNO3 sprays. Yield per tree was not enhanced when foliar K-N sprays were applied to trees that had levels of 1.3% K or more as of 15 Apr. 1992. Trees that were below optimum K in April tended toward improved dry yields after four K-N sprays. Trees that had no applied K were lowest yielding. Drying ratios and fruit size (number of fruit per kilogram) were not different among K treatments. Dry yields per tree were increased without a decrease in fruit size or an increase in drying ratio with either soil or foliar K application. These results suggest that foliar KNO3 sprays applied four times throughout the growing season can be used to correct incipient K deficiency in `French' prune and to obtain dry yields equivalent to those obtained with soil applications of KCl.

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