Phosphate and Potassium Retention and Release during Chrysanthemum Production from Precharged Materials: I. Alumina

in Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science
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  • 1 Department of Horticultural Science, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-7609

Soilless root media have little capacity to retain PO4 or K, and this contributes to leaching of these nutrients during greenhouse crop production. The objective of this research was to evaluate the suitability of precharged alumina as a sole source of PO4 and K during greenhouse production of potted chrysanthemum [Dendranthema ×grandiflora Kitam. (syn. Chrysanthemum ×morifolium Ramat.)]. Phosphate and K adsorption and desorption curves were created at 25 °C for two particle sizes (0.5 to 0.9 and 1.8 to 3.2 mm) of alumina (Al2O3; acid-washed and unwashed), and a medium of 7 peat: 3 perlite (v/v) using solutions of KH2 PO4 (P at 0 to 20,000 mg.L-1). Based on these curves, 1.8 to 3.2 mm, unwashed alumina was selected for use in the studies. Precharged alumina was tested in two greenhouse studies at 10% and 30% (v/v) of a peat-perlite medium used to produce `Sunny Mandalay' chrysanthemum. Phosphate, K, and pH were determined on unaltered root medium solutions collected throughout the 10-week cropping cycle, and foliar analyses were conducted on tissue collected at the middle and end of the cycle. Potassium release was adequate to meet chrysanthemum demand for 4 weeks, but inadequate for the remainder of the production cycle. Precharged alumina retained and released PO4 at sustained concentrations (P at <2 mg·L-1) over the course of a 10-week cropping cycle. Growth of plants receiving PO4 from precharged alumina was not significantly different from the controls receiving liquid fertilizer (P at 46.5 mg·L-1) at each watering when precharged alumina comprised 30% of the medium, and only slightly less when precharged alumina comprised 10% of the medium. A phosphorus budget showed that while 36% (103 mg) of the applied PO4-P was lost in the leachate of the controls, only 0.1% (2 mg) was lost from plants produced with alumina-P. This research demonstrates that in a soilless medium with physical properties similar to standard commercial mixes, low but adequate PO4 concentrations can be achieved and sustained using current production practices.

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