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G.J. Hochmuth, R.C. Hochmuth, M.E. Donley and E.A. Hanlon

`Classic' eggplant (Solanum melongena L.) responses to K fertilization were evaluated in Spring and Fall 1991 at Live Oak, Fla., on soils testing low in Mehlich-1 extractable K. Total season yield leveled off at 51.1 t·ha-1 with 94 kg K/ha fertilization in spring and at 53.3 t·ha-1 with 60 kg K/ha in fall. Critical K concentrations (in grams per kilogram) in whole leaves were ≈45 at first flowering, 35 at early fruiting, 30 during harvest, and 28 at the end of seven harvests. Fresh petiole-sap K critical concentrations (in milligrams per liter) were ≈4500 to 5000 before harvest and 4000 to 4500 during harvest. Less than 3500 mg K/liter in fresh sap indicated K deficiency in fruiting plants. The Mehlich-1 soil extractant procedure predicted similar responses at the two sites; however, yield responses showed that the two sites differed in fertilization requirements. Fertilizer recommendations for K at both sites exceeded eggplant K requirements.

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J.M. White, C.A. Neal, E.A. Hanlon and S. Cox

A cooperative project between the Univ. of Florida Cooperative Extension Service, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Consolidated Farm Services Agency to address farm nutrient use and water management in the Lake Apopka hydrologic unit area of Florida began in 1991. This area was selected due to the vegetable production on the organic soils (muck) and sandy soils north of Lake Apopka, Florida's most polluted large lake. Discharge of nutrient-laden water into the lake from the 4050-ha vegetable production area has been implicated as a major contribution to the hypereutrophic status of the lake. Changes in cultural practices including water management, which would lead to a reduction in nutrient loading, should aid in the restoration of the lake. A grower survey of fertilizer application rates was conducted each year for 4 years with the baseline established by the 1991 survey. Demonstration plots using soil tests as the basis for fertilizer rates compared to normal grower rates of fertilizer were established for carrots, sweet corn, and celery. In 1995, muck growers had reduced their total application of N by 16%, P 52%, and K 32%, without reducing yields or quality. Nutrient applications were reduced by over 656 t/year over the years surveyed. Farms have saved fertilizer and reduced environmental risks.

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M. Arenas, C.S. Vavrina, J.A. Cornell, E.A. Hanlon and G.J. Hochmuth

Sixteen media prepared from peat, coir, vermiculite, or perlite were used to determine the optimum growing media for tomato (Lycopersicum esculentum Mill.) transplants. Medium composition did not affect tomato seed emergence, although seedling emergence was higher in winter (90%) than summer (85%). Greatest transplant root dry weight, stem diameter, and leaf area were achieved in 50% to 75% peat + 25% to 50% vermiculite in summer. In winter, greatest transplant root dry weight, stem diameter, and leaf area were achieved in eight media: 100% peat, 75% peat + 25% vermiculite, 75% peat + 25% perlite, 50% peat + 50% vermiculite, 50% peat + 50% perlite, 25% peat + 50% coir + 25% vermiculite, 50% peat + 25%coir + 25% vermiculite, and 25% peat +25% coir +25% vermiculite +25% perlite. Transplants grown with >50% coir exhibited reduced plant growth compared to peat-grown transplants, a response that may be associated with high N immobilization by microorganisms and high C:N ratio. Despite transplant growth differences during the summer, fruit yields generally were unaffected by transplant media.

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S.J. Locascio, F.M. Rhoades, S.M. Olson, G.J. Hochmuth and E.A. Hanlon

Tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) was grown with drip irrigation on a fine sand and on a fine sandy loam to evaluate the effect of N and K time of application on yield. On the sandy soil, 196–112 kg of N–K/ha was applied with 0%, 40%, or 100% preplant with 100% or 60% applied in six or 12 equal or in 12-week variable applications. Marketable fruit yields were lowest with 100% preplant, intermediate with 100% drip-applied, and highest with 40% preplant with 60% drip-applied. With 100% drip-applied, yields were highest with 12 even than with six even weekly applications or with 12 variable N and K applications. With the 40% preplant, timing of application had little effect on yield. On the sandy loam soil in 1993, where only N was applied (196 kg·ha–1), yields were highest with 100% preplant, intermediate with 40% preplant and 60% drip-applied, and lowest with all N drip-applied. In 1994, when excessive rains occurred, yields were similar with all preplant and with split-N applications.

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G.J. Hochmuth, S.J. Locascio, F.M. Rhoades, S.M. Olson and E.A. Hanlon

Tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) was grown on fine sand and fine sandy loam soils at two sites to evaluate effects of N and K fertilization practices on petiole fresh sap N and K concentrations and to determine N and K sufficiency ranges. Treatments included applying N (196 kg·ha–1) and K (112 kg·ha–1) either 0%, 40%, or 100% preplant. With 0% or 40% preplant treatments, the remaining N and K was injected through the drip irrigation system in six or 12 equal weekly amounts or by a variable injection rate with most of the N and K injected between weeks 5 and 10 of the season. Petiole sap K concentration declined during the season, but was not greatly affected by treatment. Petiole N decreased over the season from 1100 to 200 mg NO3-N/liter and decrease was greater for preplant N treatments. Petiole N was correlated with tomato yield, especially for petiole N measured in the period of 5 to 10 weeks after transplanting.

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S. Shukla, B.J. Boman, R.C. Ebel, P.D. Roberts and E.A. Hanlon

Despite efforts to optimize water and nutrient inputs to Florida's vegetable and fruit crops, the sandy soils, shallow water table, and tropical climate of Florida result in nutrient leaching losses that are unavoidable. Water quantity and quality management strategies that can reduce these nutrient losses from Florida's horticultural crops were reviewed and research needs for quantifying their effectiveness were identified. The water quantity management strategies included water table management for irrigation, drainage management, detention of runoff and drainage, and summer flooding. In addition to the expected water quality benefits of these practices, potential effects on crop production and farm economics were also discussed. Watershed-scale adoption of stormwater harvesting has the potential to not only reduce the nutrient loadings but also become a source of additional income for landowners through water trading. The water quality practices included structural and managerial practices (e.g., vegetative filter strips and ditch cleaning). Key research needs for reducing the unavoidable nutrient discharges included the development of a crop-specific drainage management tool; quantification of farm and watershed-scale benefits of stormwater detention and its reuse with regards to nutrient loadings, water supply, crop production, and farm income; enhancement of hydraulic efficiency of detention areas; and effects of summer flooding and ditch maintenance and cleaning on nutrient discharges.

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M. Ozores-Hampton, H.H. Bryan, B. Schaffer and E.A. Hanlon

The effects of municipal solid waste (MSW) materials on growth, yield, and mineral element concentrations in tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) (1991 and 1992) and squash (Cucurbita maxima Duch. Ex Lam.) (1992 and 1993) were evaluated. Agrisoil compost (composted trash), Eweson compost (co-composted trash and sewage sludge), or Daorganite sludge (chemically and heat-treated sewage sludge) were incorporated into calcareous limestone soil of southern Florida. The control had no MSW material added to the soil. The effect of MSW on crop growth, yield, and mineral element concentrations varied considerably between years for tomato and squash. In 1991, tomato plants grown in soil amended with Eweson or Daorganite had a greater canopy volume than plants in the control treatment. Tomato plants grown in Daorganite had greater total fruit weight (1991) than plants in Agrisoil and more marketable fruit (1992) than control plants. In both years, tomato plants in Agrisoil had higher root Zn concentrations than plants in the other treatments. In 1992, tomato plants in Eweson had lower root Mn concentrations than plants in the other treatments, whereas Mg concentrations in the roots were higher in the Daorganite treatment than in Eweson. Tomato plants in Agrisoil had higher Pb concentrations in the roots than plants in all other treatments. In 1991, leaves of tomato plants in Agrisoil had lower Ca concentrations than leaves of plants in the control treatment. In 1992, leaf Zn concentrations were greater for tomato and squash in Agrisoil than in the control or Daorganite. In 1992, canopy volume and yield of squash were greater for plants in Daorganite than for plants in the control and other MSW treatments. Although canopy volume and total squash fruit weight did not differ among treatments in 1993, plant height was greater for squash plants in the MSW treatments than for those in the control. In 1993, leaf Mg concentrations were greater for squash grown in Daorganite than for plants in the control or Agrisoil. In 1993, fruit Cd concentration was higher for plants with Eweson than for plants in the control or Agrisoil. However, the fruit Cd concentration in squash grown in Eweson compost (1.0 mg/kg dry weight) was far below a hazardous level for human consumption. Our results indicate that amending calcareous soils with MSW materials can increase growth and yield of tomato and squash with negligible increases in heavy metal concentrations in fruit.