Availability and Persistence of Macronutrients from Lime and Preplant Nutrient Charge Fertilizers in Peat-based Root Media

in Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science
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  • 1 Department of Horticulture, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824-1325

Using incubation and container culture with subirrigation for up to 28 days, three experiments were conducted with six liming materials of different particle sizes and six blended preplant nutrient charge (PNC) fertilizers. Liming material, particle size, and incorporation rate had an effect on the initial pH (3.5 to 6.1) and the final stable pH (4.8 to 7.8) with one type of Canadian sphagnum peat that did not contain an incorporated PNC. Saturated media extract (SME) Ca and Mg concentrations were <25 and 15 mg·liter-1, respectively, for both pulverized and superfine dolomitic lime at incorporation rates up to 7.2 kg·m-3. For the blended PNC fertilizers in media containing lime, initial electrical conductivity (EC) and SME nutrient concentrations ranged from (EC) 1.0 to 2.9 dS·m-1, (mg·liter-1) 60 to 300 N, 4 to 105 PO4-P, 85 to 250 K, 120 to 400 Ca, and 60 to 220 Mg. However, within two days, the rapid stratification of fertilizer salts within the pot caused macronutrient concentrations to increase in the top 3 cm of root medium (top layer) by an average of 180% and decrease in the remaining root medium in the pot (root zone) by an average of 57% compared to that measured in the medium at planting. Nutrient concentrations in the top layer continued to increase even when those in the root zone fell below acceptable levels recommended for an SME. The importance of fertilizer salt stratification within a pot lies in the reduced availability of nutrients to the plant and illustrates the limited persistence of the PNC fertilizers. Testing nutrients in container media several days after planting rather than in freshly mixed media may be more representative of the starting point for a nutritional management program.

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