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Gene E. Lester, John L. Jifon, and Gordon Rogers

Muskmelon [Cucumis melo L. (Reticulatus Group)] fruit sugar content is directly related to potassium (K)-mediated phloem transport of sucrose into the fruit. However, during fruit growth and maturation, soil fertilization alone is often inadequate (due to poor root uptake and competitive uptake inhibition from calcium and magnesium) to satisfy the numerous K-dependent processes, such as photosynthesis, phloem transport, and fruit growth. Experiments were conducted during Spring 2003 and 2004 to determine if supplemental foliar K applications during the fruit growth and maturation period would alleviate this apparent inadequate K availability in orange-flesh muskmelon `Cruiser'. Plants were grown in a greenhouse and fertilized throughout the study with a soil-applied N-P-K fertilizer. Flowers were hand pollinated and only one fruit per plant was allowed to develop. Starting at 3 to 5 days after fruit set, and up to 3 to 5 days prior to fruit maturity (full slip), entire plants, including the fruit, were sprayed with a glycine amino acid-complexed potassium (potassium metalosate, 24% K) solution, diluted to 4.0 mL·L-1. Three sets of plants were sprayed either weekly (once per week), biweekly (once every 2 weeks) or not sprayed (control). Fruit from plants receiving supplemental foliar K matured on average 2 days earlier than those from control plants. In general, there were no differences in fruit maturity or quality aspects between the weekly and biweekly treatments except for fruit sugar and beta-carotene concentrations, which were significantly higher in the weekly compared to the biweekly or control treatments. Supplemental foliar K applications also resulted in significantly firmer fruit with higher K, soluble solids, total sugars, ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and beta-carotene concentrations than fruit from control plants. These results demonstrate that carefully timed foliar K nutrition can alleviate the developmentally induced K deficiency effects on fruit quality and marketability.

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Gene E. Lester, John L. Jifon, and Gordon Rogers

Muskmelonfruit[Cucumis melo L. (Retiulatus Goup)] sugar content is related to potassium (K)-mediated phloem loading and unloading of sucrose into the fruit. During fruit growth and maturation, soil fertility is often inadequate (due to poor root uptake) to satisfy the demand for K. Potassium uptake also competes with the uptake of Ca and Mg, two essential minerals needed for melon fruit membrane structure, function and postharvest shelf-life. Supplemental foliar-applied K could alleviate this problem especially during the critical fruit growth/maturation period. We conducted experiments to determine the effects of timing of supplemental foliar K applications on fruit quality and health attributes of orange-flesh muskmelon `Cruiser'. Plants were grown in a greenhouse and fertilized with a regular soil-applied N–P–K fertilizer throughout the study. Entire plants, including the fruit were sprayed with a solution of a novel glycine amino acid-complexed potassium (Potassium Metalosate, 24% K), diluted to 4.0 mL·L-1, 3 to 5 d after anthesis (fruit set) and up to 3 to 5 d prior to abscission (full-slip). Three sets of plants were either sprayed weekly, or bi-weekly or not sprayed (control). Fruit from plants receiving supplemental foliar K matured on average 2 days earlier, and had significantly higher fruit K concentrations, soluble solids, total sugars, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), beta-carotene, and were firmer than fruit from control plants. In general, there were few differences in fruit quality aspects between bi-weekly or weekly treatments. The data demonstrate that fruit quality and marketability as well as some of the developmentally induced K deficiency effects can be alleviated through foliar nutrition.

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R. Romero-Aranda and J.P. Syvertsen

We compared net gas exchange rates of CO2 and H2O vapor of greenhouse-grown `Duncan' grapefruit (Citrus paradisi Macf.) and `Valencia' orange [C. sinensis (L.) Osbeck] leaves after multiple foliar sprays of urea N with and without NaCl: CaCl2 solutions. Highly saline solutions (3.8 dSm-1) caused necrotic burn symptoms after leaf chloride levels reached 7 mmol·m-2. Grapefruit leaves had higher leaf Cl and more burn symptoms than orange leaves. The remaining green areas of all salt-stressed leaves, however, had similar rates of net CO2 assimilation (ACO2) and stomatal conductance (gs) as water-sprayed control leaves. Total leaf N and chlorophyll increased with repeated foliar applications of urea solutions regardless of salinity levels in the spray solution. Thus, salts in solution did not interfere with foliar absorption of N. High urea N solutions (33.6 g·liter-1) without salts caused foliar burn and leaf abscission after one application. Three sprays of urea-N solution (11.2 g·liter-1) increased N concentration of N-deficient leaves about 60% and increased ACO2 rate about 50%. ACO2 did not increase when nitrogen concentration in leaves exceeded a threshold value of about 200 mmol·m-2 so photosynthetic nitrogen use efficiency (PNUE = ACO2/N) decreased with increasing leaf N concentration. Net gas exchange and PNUE was higher for grapefruit than for orange leaves. Leaf Cl levels from foliar-applied salts may not be as detrimental to leaf gas exchange as Cl from salts in soil-applied irrigation water.

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David E. Crowley, Woody Smith, Ben Faber, and John A. Manthey

Methods for Zn fertilization of `Hass' avocado (Persea americana Mill.) trees were evaluated in a 2-year field experiment on a commercial orchard located on a calcareous soil (pH 7.8) in Ventura County, Calif. The fertilization methods included soil- or irrigation-applied ZnSO4; irrigation-applied Zn chelate (Zn-EDTA); trunk injection of Zn(NO3)2, and foliar applications of ZnSO4, ZnO, or Zn metalosate. Other experiments evaluated the influence of various surfactants on the Zn contents of leaves treated with foliar-applied materials and on the retention and translocation of radiolabeled 65ZnSO4 and 65Zn metalosate after application to the leaf surface. In the field experiment, tree responses to fertilization with soil-applied materials were affected significantly by their initial status, such that only trees having <50 μg·g–1 had significant increases in foliar Zn contents after fertilization. Among the three soil and irrigation treatments, ZnSO4 applied at 3.2 kg ZnSO4 per tree either as a quarterly irrigation or annually as a soil application was the most effective and increased leaf tissue Zn concentrations to 75 and 90 μg·g–1, respectively. Foliar-applied ZnSO4, ZnO, and Zn metalosate with Zn at 5.4, 0.8, and 0.9 g·liter–1, respectively, also resulted in increased leaf Zn concentrations. However, experiments with 65Zn applied to leaves of greenhouse seedlings showed that <1% of Zn applied as ZnSO4 or Zn metalosate was actually taken up by the leaf tissue and that there was little translocation of Zn into leaf parenchyma tissue adjacent to the application spots or into the leaves above or below the treated leaves. Given these problems with foliar Zn, fertilization using soil- or irrigation-applied ZnSO4 may provide the most reliable method for correction of Zn deficiency in avocado on calcareous soils.

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S.M. Southwick, W. Olson, J. Yeager, and K.G. Weis

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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Catherine K. Singer and Chris A. Martin

Mulches applied to landscape surfaces can moderate soil temperatures by changing the surface heat energy balance and conserve soil water by reducing evaporation rates. In the Southwest, decomposing granite is commonly used as landscape mulch. However, organic mulches, such as pine residue mulch and shredded tree trimmings, are becoming more available as industry by-products. Recent impetus toward water conservation and recycling forest and urban tree waste into urban landscapes has increased the need to better understand how such mulch types effect the temperature, moisture. and light quality of drip-irrigated landscapes typically found in the Southwest. We compared effects of three mulches, two organic (composted ponderosa pine residue and shredded urban tree trimmings) and one inorganic (Red Mountain Coral decomposing granite), turf grass, and bare soil applied to 14 drip-irrigated landscape research plots on below-ground soil temperatures at depths of 5 cm and 30 cm, temperatures at the mulch-soil interface, mulch surface temperatures, diel mulch surface net radiation, and albedo. Below-ground soil temperatures were more buffered by organic mulches, and mulch-soil interface temperatures were lower under organic mulch than inorganic mulches. Inorganic mulch daytime surface temperatures were lower than organic mulch surface temperatures. Nighttime net radiation values were less negative over organic mulches than inorganic mulches and albedo was significantly higher for the inorganic mulch and bare soil treatments. These results provide evidence to show that organic surface mulches have higher resistances to heat transfer than inorganic mulches, which could improve landscape plant water and nutrient use efficiencies by lowering high summer root zone temperatures.

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James M. Wargo, Ian Merwin, and Christopher Watkins

`Jonagold' apple often has problems of inadequate red blush development at harvest, and loss of firmness and skin “greasiness” after refrigerated storage. During two growing seasons we tested factorial combinations of three preharvest treatments for managing these problems: 1) N fertilization (no applied N, 34 kg N/ha in May, or 1% (w/w) foliar urea sprays in May and June); 2) mid-summer trunk scoring (girdling); and 3) aminoethoxyvinylglycine (AVG) applications 3 weeks prior to harvest. Fruit were harvested at four weekly intervals each year, and evaluated for size, blush, firmness, soluble solids, ethylene, and starch hydrolysis. Nitrogen delayed blush development in 1998, but not 1999, and there was no difference in fruit surface blush coverage between foliar urea and soil applied N. Nitrogen applications increased fruit size, decreased fruit firmness, and increased post-storage flesh breakdown in 1999. Trunk scoring increased blush coverage and intensity both years, and improved market-grade packouts. Blush increase after trunk scoring was not caused by advanced fruit maturity (based on ethylene and starch indices) in either year, although it did increase skin greasiness slightly. AVG treatments delayed maturity and blush development of `Jonagold' by 7 to 10 days both years, relative to untreated fruit. Flesh firmness increased and greasiness decreased in AVG treated fruit harvested on the same dates as controls. However, in AVG fruit harvested at comparable stages of maturity 7 to 10 days later, firmness and greasiness were equivalent to untreated fruit on the previous harvest date. Trunk scoring and no N fertilizer were effective for improving fruit blush coloration, and AVG for delaying harvest maturity.

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Joan R. Davenport and Carolyn DeMoranville

Native nitrogen is released when soils are mineralized. The amount of N released by this process depends on the amount of organic matter present and soil temperature. Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon Ait.) grows in acidic soils with a wide range in organic matter content. To evaluate release of cranberry soil N at varied soil temperatures, intact soils were collected from sites that had received no fertilizer. Soils were cored and placed in polyvinyl chloride (PVC) columns 20 cm deep × 5 cm in diameter. Four different soil types, representing the array of conditions in cranberry soil (mineral, sanded organic, organic peat, and muck) were used. Additional columns of sand soil (pH 4.5) that had been pH adjusted to high (6.5) and low (3.0) were also prepared. Each column was incubated sequentially at six different temperatures from 10 to 24 °C (2.8 °C temperature intervals) for 3 weeks at each temperature, with the soils leached twice weekly to determine the amount of N release. The total amount of N in leachate was highest in the organic soils, intermediate in the sanded organic, and lowest in the sands. At the lowest temperature (10 °C), higher amounts of N were released in sanded organic and sand than in organic soils. This was attributed to a flush of mineralization with change in the aerobic status and initial soil warming. The degree of decomposition in the organic soils was important in determining which form of N predominated in the leachate. In the more highly decomposed soil (muck), most of the N was converted to nitrate. In the pH adjusted sand, high soil pH (6.5) resulted in an increase in nitrate in the leachate but no change in ammonium when compared to non-adjusted (pH 4.5) and acidified (pH 3.0) treatments. This study suggests that for cranberry soils with organic matter content of at least 1.5% little to no soil-applied fertilizer N is needed early in the season, until soil temperatures reach 13 °C. This temperature is consistent with the beginning of active nutrient uptake by roots. Soil N release from native organic matter was fairly consistent until soil temperatures exceeded 21 °C, indicating that when temperatures exceed 21 °C, planned fertilizer applications should be reduced, particularly in highly organic soils.

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Michael Raviv

Compost is organic matter that has undergone partial thermophilic, aerobic decomposition. This environmentally safe process is called composting. The combination of raw materials and the chosen composting method yields a wide range of characteristics, such as organic matter (OM) content, nutrient content, potential for disease suppressiveness and other physical, chemical, and biological properties. The objectives of this review are describing the horticultural outlets for composts, defining compost characteristics important for the above uses, and describing composting procedures and raw materials leading to these characteristics. The two main horticultural uses of composts are as soil amendment and as an ingredient in container media. Soil-applied composts improve soil fertility mainly by increasing soil organic matter (SOM) that activates soil biota. Compost's nutrient content, and especially that of nitrogen (N), should be high (>1.8%). Composts having these characteristics are produced of raw materials rich in both OM and N, while minimizing their loss during composting. Typical raw materials for this purpose include animal manures, offal, abattoir residues, sewage sludge, and grass clippings. Various composting methods can yield the required results, including turned windrows, aerated static piles, and in-vessel composting. Composts are also used for substrates as low-cost peat substitute, potentially suppressive against various soilborne diseases. These composts must be stable and non-phytotoxic. Physical properties of compost used as substrate are important. Hydraulic conductivity, air porosity, and available water should be high. Reconciling the physical and biological demands may be difficult. Materials such as softwood bark, wood shavings, various types of shells or hulls, and coconut coir are characterized by good physical properties after composting. However, being relatively resistant to decomposition, these materials should be subjected to long and well-controlled composting, which may be shortened using N and N-rich organic matter such as animal manures. High temperatures [>65 °C (149.0 °F)] may cause ashing, which leads to reduced porosity. In addition to ligneous materials, composts serving as growing media may be produced from numerous organic wastes, such as manures, food industry wastes, etc. These materials are better composted in aerated static piles, which tend to minimize physical breakdown. Animal excreta are of special value for co-composting as they contain large, diverse populations of microorganisms, which accelerate the process.

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Paula B. Aguirre, Yahya K. Al-Hinai, Teryl R. Roper, and Armand R. Krueger

Nitrogen (N) uptake was compared on 10 dwarf apple rootstocks (M.9 EMLA, M.26 EMLA, M.27 EMLA, M.9 RN29, Pajam 1, Pajam 2, B.9, Mark, B.469, and M.9 T337) grafted with the same scion (`Gala') in a four year-old orchard. Trees were treated in either Spring or Fall 1998 with 40 g of soil applied actual N per tree using ammonium nitrate enriched to 1% 15N. Both percentage of N (%N) and N from fertilizer (NFF) in leaf tissue were highly affected by the rootstock and the season of N application. Generally, higher %N and NFF were observed for spring than fall applications, except for leaves collected during early June 1998. Generally, M.26 EMLA, M.27 EMLA, and M.9 RN29 were the most efficient rootstocks in N uptake for spring applied nitrogen. M.9 EMLA was most efficient late in the season following fall application. Mark was more efficient early in the season for fall applied N than spring application. However, trees on Mark rootstock had the lowest %N throughout the season regardless of the time of N application. Pajam 1 and Pajam 2 were the least efficient rootstocks in N uptake following fall N application. Rootstock also significantly affected %N and NFF of wood tissue. Generally, trees on B.469 had the highest %N in their wood regardless of the season of application. No single rootstock had consistently higher N from fertilizer in their wood tissue after spring application. At the May 1999 sampling date, M.26 EMLA had higher NFF than M.27 EMLA, Pajam 1, Pajam 2, and B.9 with a fall application. Other rootstocks were intermediate. Samples collected in August showed that Pajam 1 was the least efficient rootstock in N uptake for fall applied N compared to other rootstocks, except for Pajam 2 and B.9 that were intermediate. Leaf and wood tissue analysis showed that different rootstocks had different N uptake efficiencies throughout the season. Generally, M.26 EMLA, M.27 EMLA, M.9 RN29 and M.9 EMLA were more efficient at N uptake regardless the season of N application. Pajam 1 and Pajam 2 were the least efficient.