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Francesco Montesano and Marc W. van Iersel

The availability of good-quality irrigation water is decreasing worldwide, and salinity is an increasingly important agricultural problem. To determine whether detrimental effects of NaCl on plant growth and leaf physiology can be minimized by additional Ca2+ supply, tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) ‘Supersweet 100’ was grown hydroponically. The basic nutrient solution contained 11.1 mm NO3 and 2.8 mm Ca2+. Three levels of NaCl (14.1, 44.4, and 70.4 mm) were added to the basic solution to determine Na+ effects on leaf physiology and growth. To determine if Ca2+ could alleviate the toxic effects of Na+, treatments with 10 or 20 mm Ca2+ combined with 44.4 or 70 mm NaCl were included as well. To distinguish between osmotic and ion-specific effects, there were three treatments in which all nutrient concentrations were increased (without NaCl) to obtain electrical conductivity (EC) levels similar to those of the NaCl treatments. Nutrient solutions with 70.4 mm NaCl reduced leaf photosynthesis, chlorophyll content, gas-phase conductance, carboxylation efficiency, and dark-adapted quantum yield. Inclusion of 20 mm Ca2+ prevented these effects of NaCl. NaCl also decreased leaf length and elongation rate. This could not be prevented by adding extra Ca2+ to the solution; reductions in leaf elongation were due to osmotic effects rather than to Na+ specifically. Likewise, plant dry weight was negatively correlated with solution EC, suggesting an osmotic effect. Leaf area development apparently was more important for dry matter accumulation than leaf photosynthesis. Adding 20 mm Ca2+ to the 70 mm NaCl solution reduced the Na+ concentration in the leaf from 79 to 24 mg·g−1.

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Francesco Montesano and Marc W. van Iersel

The availability of good quality irrigation water is decreasing worldwide, and salinity is an increasingly important agricultural problem. To determine whether detrimental effects of NaCl can be minimized by additional Ca2+, tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) `Super-sweet 100' was grown hydroponically. The basic nutrient solution contained 11.9 mM NO - 3 and 3.2 mM Ca 2+. We added 14.1, 44.4 and 70.4 mM of NaCl to this solution to determine the effect of NaCl and there were treatments with 70 mM NaCl and 10 or 20 mM Ca2+ to look at Ca2+ effects. We also included three treatments in which all nutrient concentrations were increased (without NaCl) to distinguish between osmotic and ion-specific effects. 70.4 mM NaCl reduced leaf photosynthesis, chlorophyll content, gas phase conductance for CO2 diffusion, carboxylation efficiency, and dark-adapted quantum yield of photosystem II. The inclusion of 20 mM Ca2+ prevented these effects of NaCl. NaCl also decreased leaf size and elongation rate, but this could not be prevented by adding extra Ca2+ to the nutrient solution; these were caused by osmotic effects, rather than Na+ specifically. Likewise, plant dry mass was negatively correlated with solution EC, suggesting an osmotic effect. Our results indicate that leaf area development, which was inhibited by high EC, is more important for dry matter accumulation than leaf photosynthesis, which was inhibited by high Na+. Adding 20 mM Ca2+ to the 70 mM NaCl solution reduced the Na+ concentration in the leaf from 79 to 24 mg·g-1, which may explain why Ca2+ alleviates Na+ toxicity.

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Francesco Montesano, Gianfranco Favuzzi, Angelo Parente, Francesco Serio and Pietro Santamaria

Sustainability of the soilless greenhouse system is under discussion in open cycle systems, where excess nutrient solution (NS) draining from the substrate is released into the environment. Closed growing systems (CGS) lead to the saving of water and fertilizers. The aim of this research was to compare two CGS: nutrient film technique (NFT) and trough-bench technique [Subirrigation (SUB)]. We report the results of yield and water use efficiency (WUE) of tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill. cv. Kabiria) plants. NFT plants were grown with two electrical conductivity (EC) levels (2-4 and 6-8 dS·m-1) of NS (its highest EC was obtained by increasing all the ions therein). In the SUB system, two water tensions (-4 and –8 kPa) of susbtrate were compared; a NS with an electrical conductivity level of 2 dS·m-1 was used. The tensions were measured through tensiometers. Tomato plants were transplanted at the fourth to fifth true-leaf stage into pots containing 8 L of perlite for SUB. In both CGS, the plants were placed on steel gullies (slope of 2%). Six clusters per plant were harvested. Total and commercial yield were not influenced by the CGS (on average, 1959 and 1853 g/plant, respectively). The average weight of the fruit was lower in the SUB system's plants (40 vs. 43 g/fruit, respectively, for SUB and NFT). Salinity and water stresses resulted in a reduction of 26% of the yield and 16% of the average weight of fruits. The WUE was higher in SUB than NFT (30.7 vs. 26.0 g·L-1, respectively). Salinity stress reduced WUE (29.4 v.s 22.6 g·L-1 with 2–4 and 6–8 dS·m-1, respectively), whereas water stress did not.

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Francesco Montesano, Cristina Ferulli, Angelo Parente, Francesco Serio and Pietro Santamaria

Nutrient solutions (NS) containing moderate to high concentrations of salts are frequently supplied to improve the taste of tomato fruits grown in soilless systems. The aim of this study was to determine whether salinity and water stress affect the tomato fruit quality similarly. The research was conducted in Mola di Bari, Italy, during Autumn 2004, and compared the nutrient film technique (NFT) with the trough-bench technique [Subirrigation (SUB)] in terms of tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill. cv. Kabiria) fruit quality. In the NFT, the plants were grown with two electrical conductivity (EC) levels (2–4 and 6–8 dS·m-1) of NS. The highest EC was obtained by increasing all the ions in the NS. In the SUB system, two water tensions (-4 and -8 kPa) of substrate (perlite) were examinated. At harvest, in each cluster (six/plant), fruit dry matter (DM) and total soluble solids (TSS) were determinated. In the fourth and sixth cluster, vitamin C content and titratable acidity were determined. Total yield was not influenced by either soilless system, while the average weight of the fruit was lower in the SUB. The DM and TTS were influenced by soilless system (on average, 6.6 vs 7.3 g/100 g of fresh matter and 5.3 vs. 5.9 °Brix, with NFT and SUB, respectively). Both of the stresses resulted in the increase of DM and TSS, principally in SUB (water stress) in respect to NFT (salinity stress), while vitamin C and titratable acidity were not influenced by soilless system or water/salinity stress (25.2 mg/100 g fresh matter and 0.45 g/100 mL of citric acid juice, respectively). Results of NFT with the highest EC of NS exceeded 9 dS·m-1, without any stress symptoms in the plants, while EC in the SUB system remained unchanged (about 2.5 dS·m-1).

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Carlo Mininni, Pietro Santamaria, Hamada M. Abdelrahman, Claudio Cocozza, Teodoro Miano, Francesco Montesano and Angelo Parente

Posidonia [Posidonia oceanica (L.) Delile] is a marine phanerogam endemic of the Mediterranean Sea that grows all along the coast forming extensive underwater meadows. Senescent posidonia leaves, together with fibers (residues of rhizomes and decomposed leaves), periodically accumulate along Mediterranean beaches, covering vast areas of coast. Removal and disposal of these large volumes of plant biomasses represent a high cost for local administrations. Therefore, in this experiment, beached residues of posidonia were composted with olive pruning and green wastes with the objective to assess the efficacy of posidonia-based compost (63% on a volume basis) as a peat replacement. The compost was then mixed with a peat-based commercial substrate at rates of 0% (C0, pure peat-based commercial substrate tested as control), 25% (C25), 50% (C50), 75% (C75), and 100% (C100, pure posidonia-based compost) v/v. Mixtures were used as growing media to produce lettuce seedlings for transplant. Two lettuce cultivars (8511RZ and Satine) were tested. Main physical and chemical properties of the five growing media, shoot and root fresh and dry weight, leaf area, root morphology, and elemental leaf tissue composition were studied. Growing media containing posidonia-based compost, C25 and C50 in particular, showed good physical properties. Increasing compost proportions in the mixtures resulted in enhanced: 1) availability of macro- and micronutrients in the growing media; and 2) overall growth parameters of lettuce seedlings, in particular for the cultivar Satine. In conclusion, posidonia-based compost shows a considerable potential as a peat substitute in horticultural substrates; posidonia residues are a low-cost renewable material. In growing media for lettuce seedlings production, posidonia-based compost could be used as a complement to peat at a rate of 25% or 50% to obtain optimal physical properties and to limit the negative effects of high B content, which are typical of posidonia residues.