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Richard F. Smith, Louise E. Jackson, and Tiffany A. Bensen

Lettuce growers in the Salinas Valley are often not able to rotate to other crops due to economic pressure, such as high land rent. Winter-grown cover crops (October to March) provide a short-term rotation from lettuce and have been shown to reduce nitrate leaching by 75%. However, the use of winter-grown cover crops is low due to the extended time these cover crops tie up the ground. As a result, growers are interested in the potential of fall-grown cover crops (September to October) to reduce nitrate leaching through the winter. Fall-grown cover crops are incorporated into the soil prior to the onset of winter rains and leave the soil bare over the winter; however, during fall growth, the cover crop has the potential to capture excess nitrate that may leach during the fallow period, but how much has not been previously measured. A long-term trial was established in Fall 2003 using treatments of Indian mustard (B. juncea) `ISCI 61', White mustard (S. alba) `Ida Gold', Cereal rye (Secale cereale) `Merced', and a no cover crop control. All cover crops contained ≈224 kg·ha-1 N upon incorporation. Anion resin bags were installed 90 cm deep in the soil following incorporation to trap leaching nitrate; they were left in place until planting of the lettuce the following spring. First-year results indicated that the mustard cover crops and `Merced' rye all reduced nitrate leaching to the 90-cm depth by 67% to 82% over the bare fallow treatment. These results indicate that fall-grown cover crops have the potential to reduce nitrate leaching in lettuce production systems in the Salinas Valley.

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Raul I. Cabrera

Seven nursery grade (8-9 month duration), polymer-coated, controlled-release fertilizers (CRF) were topdressed or incorporated into a 2 peat: 1 vermiculite: 1 sand (by volume) medium to yield the same amount of N per container. The pots (0.5 L) were uniformly irrigated with DI water every week to produce a target leaching fraction of 25%. Leachate N contents (ammonium plus nitrate), employed as indicators of N release, allowed for comparison of CRF performance as a function of temperature changes over a season. Two distinct N leaching (i.e., release) patterns were observed over the 180-day experimental period. The fertilizers Osmocote 18-6-12FS (Fast Start: OSM-FS), Prokote Plus 20-3-10 (PROK), Osmocote 24-4-8HN (High N: OSM-HN) and Polyon 25-4-12 (POLY) exhibited a N leaching pattern that closely followed changes in average daily ambient temperatures (Tavg) over the season. This relationship was curvilinear, with N leaching rates per pot (NLR) being highly responsive to Tavg changes between 20 and 25 °C. Temperatures above 25 °C produced an average maximum NLR of 1.27 mg·d-1 for these fertilizers. OSM-FS, PROK, and OSM-HN had the highest cumulative N losses over the experimental period. In contrast, the CRF group formed by Nutricote 18-6-8 (270: NUTR), Woodace 20-4-12 (WDC), and Osmocote 18-6-12 (OSM) showed a more stable N leaching pattern over a wider range of temperatures, with rates about 30% to 40% lower than those in the temperature-responsive CRF, and averaging a maximum NLR of 0.79 mg·d-1 for Tavg >25 °C. NUTR and WDC had the lowest cumulative N losses over the season. Soluble salt readings paralleled N leaching for each CRF, indicating similar leaching patterns for other nutrients. Incorporation produced significantly higher cumulative N losses than topdressing, but without effect on the actual N leaching pattern over the season. Regardless of the N formulation in the CRF, over 85% of the N recovered in the leachates was in the nitrate form.

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Y.C. Li, P.J. Stoffella, A.K. Alva, D.V. Calvert, and D.A. Graetz

Compost amendment to agricultural soils has been shown to either reduce disease incidence, conserve soil moisture, control weeds or improve soil fertility. Application of compost can range from 5 to 250 Mt·ha–1 (N content up to 4%). Large application of compost with high N and P levels may result in excessive leaching of nitrate, ammonium, and phosphate into groundwater. It could be a serious concern on the east coast of Florida with its high annual rainfall and shallow water table. In this study, five composts (sugarcane filtercake, biosolids, and mixtures of municipal solid wastes and biosolids) were collected from different facilities throughout Florida. Composts were applied on a surface of 15-cm sandy soil columns at the rate of 100 Mt·ha–1 on the surface basis and leached with deionized water by 300 ml·d–1 for 5 days (equivalent to 34 cm rainfall). The concentrations of NO3-N, NH4-N, and PO4-P in leachates reached as high as 246, 29, and 142 mg·L–1, respectively. The amount of N and P leached following 5-day leaching events accounted for 3.3% to 15.8% of total N and 0.2% to 2.8% of total P as inorganic forms.

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Timothy K. Broschat

Spathiphyllum Schott. `Mauna Loa Supreme' and areca palm (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens H. Wendl.) were grown for 6 months in 3.5-liter containers using a pine bark–sedge peat–sand container medium or a native sand soil. Plants were fertilized with equivalent amounts of a 21N–3P–12K fertilizer applied weekly as a liquid, monthly as a soluble granular, bimonthly as a lightly coated controlled-release, or every 6 months as a heavily coated controlled-release fertilizer. All leachates were collected and analyzed weekly for NO3-N, PO4-P, and K. Amounts of all three nutrients leached per week varied considerably in response to fertilizer reapplications or high rainfall. Nitrate leaching generally decreased over time, PO4-P leaching increased, and K remained relatively constant. Shoot dry weights of spathiphyllum were equivalent for all fertilization methods, but areca palm shoot dry weights were highest with liquid fertilization and lowest with the soluble granular fertilizer. Nutrient leaching for all three ions was highest for the soluble granules and lowest for the two controlled-release formulations.

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William R. Graves, Sandra R. Anfinson, and Kathryn K. Lappegard

Scotch laburnum [Laburnum alpinum (Mill.) Bercht.], Amur maackia (Maackia amurensis Rupr. & Maxim.), and Chinese wisteria [Wisteria sinensis (Sims) Sweet] were inoculated with compatible rhizobia and treated with leaching fractions (LF) of 0, 0.2, and 0.4 using fertilizer solutions with 3.6 and 10.7 mol N/m3 for 10 weeks. LF did not affect plant dry mass, leaf area, or stem length. Growth was higher among plants provided 10.7 mol N/m3, but only plants provided 3.6 mol N/m3 formed root nodules. We conclude that growth is not reduced by eliminating leaching during the first 10 weeks of seedling development, and that application of 10.7 mol N/m3 prevents nodulation of these species.

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Michael D. Frost, Janet C. Cole, and John M. Dole

Improving the quality of water released from containerized production nurseries and greenhouse operations is an increasing concern in many areas of the United States. The potential pollution threat to our ground and potable water reservoirs via the horticultural industry needs to receive attention from growers and researchers alike. `Orbit Red' geraniums were grown in 3:1 peat:perlite medium with microtube irrigation to study the effect of fertilizer source on geranium growth, micronutrient leaching, and nutrient distribution. Manufacturer's recommended rates of controlled-release (CRF) and water-soluble fertilizers (WSF) were used to fulfill the micronutrient requirement of the plants. Minimal differences in all growth parameters measured between WSF and CRF were determined. A greater percentage of Fe was leached from the WSF than CRF. In contrast, CRF had a greater percentage of Mn leached from the system than WRF during the experiment. Also, regardless of treatment, the upper and middle regions of the growing medium had a higher nutrient concentration than the lower region of medium.

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Blaine R. Hanson, Jan Hopmans, and Jirka Simunek

Injection during the middle one-third or the middle one-half of the irrigation is recommended for fertigation using microirrigation. However, short fertigation events are commonly used by growers. This project investigated the effect of fertigation practices on nitrate availability and leaching. The first phase of the project (completed) determined nitrate distributions in the root zone for four microirrigation systems, three soil types, and five fertigation strategies using the HYDRUS-2D computer simulation model. Fertigation strategies included injecting for short time periods at the beginning, middle, and end of the irrigation cycle, respectively; injecting during the middle 50% of the irrigation cycle, and continuous injection. The second phase (ongoing) is investigating the distribution of nitrate, ammonium, urea, phosphate, and potassium around the drip line for selected Phase 1 scenarios. Phase 1 results showed less nitrate leached from the root zone for a 2-h injection time at the end of a long irrigation event compared to injection at the beginning and middle of a long irrigation event for surface drip irrigation. A more continuous fertigation resulted in a more uniform distribution of nitrate in the soil. The results were less conclusive for subsurface drip lines, due to upward movement of nitrate above the drip line. Little difference in nitrate leaching occurred for short irrigation events, regardless of fertigation strategy. Data analysis of the Phase 2 modeling is under way. The HYDRUS-2D model included partition coefficients for ammonium, phosphate, and potassium, and parameters for hydrolysis (conversion of urea to ammonium), nitrification, and denitrification.

Open access

Virginia I. Lohr, Ralph G. O’Brien, and David L. Coffey


Lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.), tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.), cucumber (Cucumis sativus L.), and marigold (Tagetes patula L.) transplants were grown from seed in leached and unleached media containing 0%, 25%, or 50% (by volume) peat and/or fresh or aged spent mushroom compost with 50% vermiculite. Reduced growth and symptoms of ammonium toxicity were seen in transplants grown in fresh spent mushroom compost. Transplants grown in 0% or 25% compost were larger than those grown in 50%, probably due to high salinity in 50% compost. Leaching reduced media soluble salts and generally improved plant yields. K and Ca were higher and P and Mg were lower in the tissue of transplants grown in spent mushroom compost than of those in the peat-lite control mix. High quality transplants were produced in 25%, aged spent mushroom compost, while acceptable plants of slightly reduced quality were produced in 50%, aged compost.

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Zhenli He, David. V. Calvert, Peter. J. Stoffella, and Mingkui Zhang

To evaluate effects of canopy and micro-irrigation under trees on accumulation and leaching of phosphorus (P) and heavy metals in agricultural sand soils, the horizontal and vertical variations of soil P and metals in a 408-m2 plot within a grove under grapefruit (Citrus paradisi Macf.) production near Fort Pierce, Fla., was examined. A high horizontal variation of labile soil P and metal concentrations was observed. Across the row, the highest values of pH, EC, water-soluble P, and all metals occurred in the soils under the canopies, and the lowest values occurred in the soils near the water furrow or the midway of the inter-row. Along the grapefruit row, the highest values of many measured variables occurred along the northern side of the citrus tree and close to the emitter. The downward movement of P, Cu, and Zn in the soils was more significant in the soils in open areas (near the water furrow and midway of inter-neighboring trees) than those under the canopies. The differences in labile P and metal spatial distributions in the soils were related to the location of emitter fertigation and differences in rainfall-induced leaching in the field. The results suggest that applying fertilizers to sites under the canopy rather than the spaces between the trees can minimize leaching losses of nutrients.

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George L. Hosfield and Clifford W. Beninger

Seed coat color in dry bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) is determined by the presence or absence of tannins, flavonoids, and anthocyanins. Black beans contain three main anthocyanins that are responsible for their black seed coat color: delphinidin 3-O-glucoside, petunidin 3-O-glucoside, and malvidin 3-O-glucoside. Leaching of anthocyanins occurs in many black bean genotypes during thermal processing (i.e., blanching and cooking). Black beans that lose their dark color after processing are unacceptable to the industry. Since the marketability of black beans can be adversely affected by thermal processing, an experiment was conducted to ascertain whether pigment leaching was due to qualitative or quantitative changes in anthocyanins during processing. Four black bean genotypes that showed differential leaching of color were investigated. `Harblack' retains most of its black color after processing while `Raven' loses most of its color. `Black Magic' and `Black Jack' are intermediate between `Harblack' and `Raven' in processed color. Bean samples (119 ± 1.5 g) of the four genotypes were thermally processed in 100 x 75-mm tin cans in a pilot laboratory. Seed coats were removed from the cooked beans, freeze-dried, and placed in solutions of formic 10 acid: 65 water: 25 methanol to extract anthocyanins. The extracts were analyzed by HPLC. Although all genotypes retained some color, there were no detectable anthocyanins in seed coats of the cooked beans. In a second experiment, raw beans of each genotype were boiled in distilled water for 15 minutes. All four genotypes lost color during boiling, but `Harblack' retained most of its color and had a five-fold higher concentration of the three anthocyanins than did the other genotypes. `Harblack' may retain color better than other black beans because of physical characteristics of the seed coat.