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  • Author or Editor: Timothy L. Righetti x
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Nitrogen, boron, and zinc are the major deficiencies encountered in Oregon tree fruit production. Much of our current management strategies are based on studies evaluating the uptake and plant mobility of labeled N, Zn, and B. Because mature trees differ from young plants, most of our experiments are conducted on fully bearing trees. Nitrogen strategies emphasize applying minimal amounts to avoid excess vigor and poor fruit quality. Our goal is to produce moderately vigorous trees with low fruit N, while still maintaining adequate tree reserves for early spring growth. Labeled 15N studies suggest that the later N is applied, the less is partitioned into leaves and fruit, with more N incorporated into storage tissues. Postharvest foliar applications of urea can also produce high bud N levels in combination with moderate vigor and low fruit N. Partitioning differences from various timings also result in different utilization efficiencies, especially if one considers N losses from pruning. Early N applications may have smaller efficiencies because pruning losses are greater. Although plant B is thought to be immobile, foliar-applied B is rapidly mobilized out of the leaf. Postharvest foliar B applications are an excellent way to ensure that buds have adequate B levels the following spring. Unlike N and B, Zn is not mobilized out of the leaf where it is applied. Sprays directly to young tissues in the spring are the only practical ways of increasing Zn levels.

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This study was carried out on mature `Delicious' apple trees (Malus domestica Borkh.) on EM 9 rootstock. Labeled B (99.63 Atom % 10B) was applied as boric acid. Treatments were postharvest foliar B at 375 mg·L–1, postharvest foliar B (375 mg·L–1) plus urea (2.5% wt/vol), and a soil application at the same per-tree rate as the foliar treatments (16 g boric acid/tree). Postharvest foliar B applied with or without urea was efficiently transported from the leaves into storage tissues for the next year's growth. However, soil-applied B remained mostly in the roots while very little was translocated to the above-ground portions of the tree at full bloom. When urea was added to a foliar B spray, the amount of B in the roots and flower clusters increased at full bloom. Although increasing the efficiency of foliar B applications may not be necessary, combining urea and B into a single application is recommended when growers want to apply both N and B. Shoot leaves from all treatments collected late in the season (midsummer) had similar B concentrations, even though treatments altered the amount of added B that was present in different tree tissues early in the season.

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Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon Ait.) is an important crop in Oregon. However, nutrient critical levels have not been established. Since developing nutrient critical levels usually requires time-consuming and expensive field trials, we chose to use the Diagnosis and Recommendation Integrated System (DRIS), which can use survey data to determine critical levels. We analyzed 139 cranberry samples collected from the southern Oregon coastal area over a three-year period. Leaf concentrations for N, P, K, S, Ca, Mg, Mn, Fe, Cu, B, and Zn in bearing uprights collected in mid-August were matched with the corresponding yields. DRIS was employed to obtain norms and critical levels from this survey data. To test our DRIS norms and critical levels, we evaluated two published experiments (Torio and Eck, 1969 and Medappa and Dana, 1969) where fertility treatments altered mineral concentrations and affected yield. Both ratio-based and critical concentration diagnoses were useful. Changes in the Nutrient Imbalance Index was a good predictor of yield response.

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Nitrogen accumulation patterns were established for Weigela florida (Bunge.) A. DC. `Red Prince' (fast growth rate) and Euonymus alatus (Thunb.) Sieb. `Compactus' (slow growth rate). From these, daily and biweekly N delivery schedules were designed to match N supply with N accumulation patterns of each taxon. Delivery schedules were sliding scales in that total N applied was controlled by independent increases (or decreases) of N concentration and solution volume. Daily and biweekly N delivery schedules were tested against a constant N rate (200 mg·L-1) and Osmocote 18N-2.6P-9.9K (The Scotts Co., Marysville, Ohio). Plants were grown in 3.8-L containers in 7 douglas fir bark: 2 sphagnum peatmoss: 1 silica sand (0.65 mm; by volume) outdoors in full sun on a gravel pad for 142 d. Within each taxon, Weigela and Euonymus grown with sliding-scale N fertilization schedules had similar total dry weights, leaf areas, and total plant N contents to plants grown with a constant N rate (200 mg·L-1) or Osmocote 18N-2.6P-9.9K. Sliding-scale liquid fertilization based on plant N requirements introduced less total N to the production cycle and resulted in higher N uptake efficiency than fertilization with a constant N rate of 200 mg·L-1. In general, liquid N fertilizer treatments resulted in plants with higher shoot to root ratios than plants treated with Osmocote 18N-2.6P-9.9K. Weigela and Euonymus treated with biweekly schedules were similar to plants treated with daily schedules (same total amount of N delivered with each treatment).

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Fruit tree responses to foliar urea sprays are variable. We hypothesized that such variability is a function of leaf age-related changes in urea-N mobility after urea is absorbed. Two experiments were conducted to study the distribution of urea-derived N in shoots and branches of apple (Malus ×domestica Borkh.) trees. Urea labeled with 15N was applied to young expanding leaves in spring and to senescing spur leaves in fall. At the low concentrations used [0.5%, 1%, and 2% (w/v)], very little spring-applied 15N was found in tissues other than the treated leaf. Fall-applied urea-15N, however, was detected in high concentrations in dormant buds and bark of the spurs to which the treated leaves were attached. Almost no N was exported to neighboring tissues. The following spring, there was some redistribution of labeled N to adjacent buds. Foliar urea sprays applied immediately after harvest contributed most to bud N; less urea-N was exported to the buds following later fall applications.

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Accurate methods for determining the fate and recovery of nitrogen (N) fertilizer applied to container-grown nursery crops are essential to comply with regulations and develop innovative fertilizer programs. The objectives of this study were (i) to use 15N techniques to determine the fate of fertilizer N, (ii) to compare nonisotopic and isotopic methods of determining N recovery, and (iii) to determine the relative importance of fertilizer and non-fertilizer N at rates of 25, 50, 100, 200, and 300 mg·L-1 in container-grown Euonymus alatus (Thunb.) Sieb., Cornus sericea L., and Weigela florida (Bunge) A. DC. In all species, root and shoot N increased with N rate, and at each rate more N was stored in the roots than in the shoots. Estimation of N recovery determined by the total N method (Kjeldahl N/applied N) was significantly higher for all species and at each N rate than estimation of N recovery determined by the labeled fertilizer N method (labeled N/total applied N). Increasing fertilizer rates up to 100 mg·L-1 resulted in increased uptake of N derived from other sources (NDFO). NDFO at low N concentrations was a significant portion of the total N in the plant. As a result, the difference in estimation of percent N recovery between each method was larger at lower N concentrations for all species. The nonisotopic total N method produces higher fertilizer N uptake estimates, as much as three to four times the isotopic based estimates, in container-grown plants at N concentrations of 25 mg·L-1. Actual fertilizer N loss increases dramatically from 25 to 300 mg·L-1 (due to dramatic increases in N applied), despite small gains in fertilizer N recovery efficiency.

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Cornus sericea L., Weigela florida (Bunge) A. DC., and Euonymus alatus (Thunb.) Sieb were grown outside in 3.8-L plastic containers for 345 days (1 Apr. 2001 to 11 Mar. 2002). Nitrogen (N) was applied at rates (NAR) of 25, 50, 100, 200, and 300 mg·L–1 and delivered as aqueous double-labeled 15N depleted NH4NO3 (min 99.95% atom 14N). In all species, root, shoot, and total plant dry weight increased with increasing NARs while root to shoot ratios decreased. Similarly, root, shoot, and total plant N increased with NAR for each species, and at each NAR more N was stored in the roots than in the shoots. Estimation of fertilizer N uptake determined by the total N method was higher for all species and at each NAR than estimation of N uptake determined by the fertilizer 15N tracer method. Fertilizer N uptake efficiency determined by the total N method was highest at 25 mg·L–1 and decreased as NARs increased. In contrast fertilizer N uptake efficiency determined by the fertilizer 15N tracer method was lowest at 25 mg·L–1 and increased or remained relatively constant as NARs increased. Differences in N uptake and N uptake efficiency can be attributed to overestimation by the total N method due to the inclusion of nonfertilizer N and underestimation by the fertilizer 15N tracer method due to pool substitution. Corrected N uptake efficiency values can be calculated by adjusting the original data (total N or 15N uptake) by the distance between the origin and the y intercept of the regression line representing the data.

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Young bearing spur (Red-Spur Delicious) and standard (Top-Red Delicious) type apple trees were given one of the following treatments: 120g N applied to the ground in spring (SG), 120g N applied to the ground one month before harvest (PG), 60g N sprayed on the foliage after harvest (FF), 60g N SG and 60g N PG, or 60g N SG and 60g N FE Urea and NH4NO3 depleted in 15N (0.01 atom percentage 15N) were used for foliar and ground applications, respectively. Very little labeled N was present in leaves and fruit with PG applications, but roots, bark, and buds contained substantial amounts of it. Nitrogen from the FF sprays was effectively translocated to buds and bark. Percentage of N from the fertilizer in Sept leaves from spur-type trees that had only 60 g of N in spring was 56% higher than that found in standard-type trees. This figure rose to 180% with 120 g N spring application. Mature fruit showed the same trend. Spur-type trees appeared more responsive to N management practices. In contrast to the above ground structure, small roots of standard-type trees showed more label than those of spur-type trees. The difference was bigger with SG applications. Partitioning of N in the roots was apparently affected by the scion.

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The effects of nitrogen (N) fertilizer application on plant growth, N uptake, and biomass and N allocation in highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum L. ‘Bluecrop’) were determined during the first 2 years of field establishment. Plants were either grown without N fertilizer after planting (0N) or were fertilized with 50, 100, or 150 kg·ha−1 of N (50N, 100N, 150N, respectively) per year using 15N-depleted ammonium sulfate the first year (2002) and non-labeled ammonium sulfate the second year (2003) and were destructively harvested on 11 dates from Mar. 2002 to Jan. 2004. Application of 50N produced the most growth and yield among the N fertilizer treatments, whereas application of 100N and 150N reduced total plant dry weight (DW) and relative uptake of N fertilizer and resulted in 17% to 55% plant mortality. By the end of the first growing season in Oct. 2002, plants fertilized with 50N, 100N, and 150N recovered 17%, 10%, and 3% of the total N applied, respectively. The top-to-root DW ratio was 1.2, 1.6, 2.1, and 1.5 for the 0N, 50N, 100N, and 150N treatments, respectively. By Feb. 2003, 0N plants gained 1.6 g/plant of N from soil and pre-plant N sources, whereas fertilized plants accumulated only 0.9 g/plant of N from these sources and took up an average of 1.4 g/plant of N from the fertilizer. In Year 2, total N and dry matter increased from harvest to dormancy in 0N plants but decreased in N-fertilized plants. Plants grown with 0N also allocated less biomass to leaves and fruit than fertilized plants and therefore lost less DW and N during leaf abscission, pruning, and fruit harvest. Consequently, by Jan. 2004, there was little difference in DW between 0N and 50N treatments; however, as a result of lower N concentrations, 0N plants accumulated only 3.6 g/plant (9.6 kg·ha−1) of N, whereas plants fertilized with 50N accumulated 6.4 g/plant (17.8 kg·ha−1), 20% of which came from 15N fertilizer applied in 2002. Although fertilizer N applied in 2002 was diluted by non-labeled N applications the next year, total N derived from the fertilizer (NDFF) almost doubled during the second season, before post-harvest losses brought it back to the starting point.

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A study was done to determine the macro- and micronutrient requirements of young northern highbush blueberry plants (Vaccinium corymbosum L. ‘Bluecrop’) during the first 2 years of establishment and to examine how these requirements were affected by the amount of nitrogen (N) fertilizer applied. The plants were spaced 1.2 × 3.0 m apart and fertilized with 0, 50, or 100 kg·ha−1 of N, 35 kg·ha−1 of phosphorus (P), and 66 kg·ha−1 of potassium (K) each spring. A light fruit crop was harvested during the second year after planting. Plants were excavated and parts sampled for complete nutrient analysis at six key stages of development, from leaf budbreak after planting to fruit harvest the next year. The concentration of several nutrients in the leaves, including N, P, calcium (Ca), sulfur (S), and manganese (Mn), increased with N fertilizer application, whereas leaf boron (B) concentration decreased. In most cases, the concentration of nutrients was within or above the range considered normal for mature blueberry plants, although leaf N was below normal in plants grown without fertilizer in Year 1, and leaf B was below normal in plants fertilized with 50 or 100 kg·ha−1 N in Year 2. Plants fertilized with 50 kg·ha−1 N were largest, producing 22% to 32% more dry weight (DW) the first season and 78% to 90% more DW the second season than unfertilized plants or plants fertilized with 100 kg·ha−1 N. Most DW accumulated in new shoots, leaves, and roots in both years as well as in fruit the second year. New shoot and leaf DW was much greater each year when plants were fertilized with 50 or 100 kg·ha−1 N, whereas root DW was only greater at fruit harvest and only when 50 kg·ha−1 N was applied. Application of 50 kg·ha−1 N also increased DW of woody stems by fruit harvest, but neither 50 nor 100 kg·ha−1 N had a significant effect on crown, flower, or fruit DW. Depending on treatment, plants lost 16% to 29% of total biomass at leaf abscission, 3% to 16% when pruned in winter, and 13% to 32% at fruit harvest. The content of most nutrients in the plant followed the same patterns of accumulation and loss as plant DW. However, unlike DW, magnesium (Mg), iron (Fe), and zinc (Zn) content in new shoots and leaves was similar among N treatments the first year, and N fertilizer increased N and S content in woody stems much earlier than it increased biomass of the stems. Likewise, N, P, S, and Zn content in the crown were greater at times when N fertilizer was applied, whereas K and Ca content were sometimes lower. Overall, plants fertilized with 50 kg·ha−1 N produced the most growth and, from planting to first fruit harvest, required 34.8 kg·ha−1 N, 2.3 kg·ha−1 P, 12.5 kg·ha−1 K, 8.4 kg·ha−1 Ca, 3.8 kg·ha−1 Mg, 5.9 kg·ha−1 S, 295 g·ha−1 Fe, 40 g·ha−1 B, 23 g·ha−1 copper (Cu), 1273 g·ha−1 Mn, and 65 g·ha−1 Zn. Thus, of the total amount of fertilizer applied over 2 years, only 21% of the N, 3% of the P, and 9% of the K were used by plants during establishment.

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