With the introduction of nutrient management legislation in Ontario, there is a need to improve the efficiency of nitrogen (N) utilization. One possibility is to use critical nutrient concentrations in plant tissue as an indicator of the N nutritional status of the crop. Plant tissue analysis was used to determine the total N and nitrate-N (NO3-N) concentrations of cabbage (Brassica oleracea var. capitata L.), carrots (Daucus carota L.), and onions (Allium cepa L.) grown in Ontario. The tissue samples were collected from plants as part of N fertilization studies from 1999 to 2001 on the organic soils in the Holland/Bradford Marsh area and the mineral soils near Simcoe, Ontario. Yield was assessed at harvest as an indicator of the N requirement of the crop. Testing the usefulness of critical NO3-N concentrations to indicate the N requirement of the crop was problematic because: 1) few published references were available to indicate a critical level of NO3-N in these crops; 2) tissue NO3-N concentrations were highly variable; and 3) field data rarely matched published references. Tissue total N concentrations from the trials corresponded to published critical N concentrations in some cases, however, the use of published critical N concentrations would have resulted in either over or under-application of fertilizer to the crops. Cultivar, soil type, and climate were shown to affect tissue N concentrations. Based on these results it was concluded that local research and field verification is required before tissue N critical nutrient concentrations become useful for determining fertilizer needs of cabbage, carrots, and onions grown in Ontario.
Nutrient management legislation has prompted an evaluation of alternative nitrogen (N) management techniques. SPAD (Soil Plant Analysis Development) chlorophyll and Cardy nitrate (NO3-) meters were evaluated for their potential as tissue nitrogen tests in cabbage (Brassica oleracea var. capitata), onions (Allium cepa), and carrots (Daucus carota subsp. sativus). Cabbage, carrots, and onions were grown on both organic and mineral soils in Ontario, Canada in 2000 and 2001. Nitrogen was applied at five rates to cabbage and carrots and three rates to onions ranging from 0 to 200% of current provincial recommended N rates. In an additional treatment, 50% of the recommended rate was applied preplant and sidedress N applications of 40 kg·ha-1 (35.7 lb/acre) were applied when SPAD chlorophyll meter readings fell below 95 (2000) and 97% (2001) of the highest N rate treatment. Yields were generally unaffected by N rate, except in cabbage in 2000, suggesting adequate N was present in most treatments. SPAD chlorophyll meter readings were highly variable among soil types, cultivars, and years. Chlorophyll readings reached a plateau in adequately fertilized crops in many instances. Cardy readings were less variable among soil types, cultivars, and years. The relationship between N rate and sap NO3-N concentration was generally linear. The results suggest that the use of a well-fertilized reference plot is most appropriate for the SPAD meter on these vegetable crops, while the use of region-specific critical NO3-N concentrations was most appropriate for the Cardy NO3-meter. Both meters would be cost advantageous when over 500 samples are tested. The meters were generally easy to use, except for the SPAD meter on carrots. The meters have potential for N management of vegetable crops under Ontario growing conditions.