Florida is the largest fresh-market tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.)–producing state in the United States. Although vegetable production requires frequent water supply throughout the crop production cycle to produce maximum yield and ensure high-quality produce, overirrigation can reduce crop yield and increase negative environmental consequences. This study was conducted to evaluate and compare irrigation schedules by a real-time and location-specific evapotranspiration (ET)-based SmartIrrigation Vegetable App (SI) with a historic ET-based schedule (HI). A field study was conducted on drip-irrigated, fresh-market tomato during the Fall of 2015 and Spring of 2016 on a Florida sandy soil. The two scheduling methods (SI and HI) were evaluated for irrigation water application, plant biomass accumulation, nutrient uptake and partitioning, and yield in open-field tomato production. Treatments included 100% HI (T1); 66% SI (T2); 100% SI (T3); and 150% SI (T4). Treatments were arranged in a randomized complete block design with four replicates per treatment during the two production seasons. In both seasons, depth of irrigation water applied increased in the order of T2 < T3 < T1 < T4. Total water savings was greater for T3 schedule compared with T1 schedule at 22% and 16% for fall and spring seasons, respectively. No differences were observed among treatments for tomato biomass accumulation at all sampling periods during both seasons. However, T3 resulted in significantly greater total marketable yield compared with other treatments in both seasons. The impact of irrigation application rate was greater in fruit and leaf nitrogen accumulation compared with that of stem and root biomass. Based on the plant performance and water savings, this study concludes that under a sandy soil condition, a real-time location-specific irrigation scheduler improves irrigation scheduling accuracy in relation to actual crop water requirement in open-field tomato production.
Effective nutrient and irrigation management practices are critical for optimum growth and yield in open-field fresh-market tomato production. Although nutrient and irrigation management practices have been well-studied for tomato production in Florida, more studies of the current highly efficient production systems would be considered essential. Therefore, a two-season (Fall 2016 and Spring 2017) study was conducted in Immokalee, FL, to evaluate the effects of the nitrogen (N) rates under different irrigation regimes and to determine the optimum N requirement for open-field fresh-market tomato production. To evaluate productivity, the study investigated the effects of N rates and irrigation regimes on plant and root growth, yield, and production efficiency of fresh-market tomato. The study demonstrated that deficit irrigation (DI) targeting 66% daily evapotranspiration (ET) replacement significantly increased tomato root growth compared with full irrigation (FI) at 100% ET. Similarly, DI application increased tomato growth early in the season compared with FI. Therefore, irrigation applications may be adjusted downward from FI, especially early during a wet season, thereby potentially improving irrigation water use efficiency (iWUE) and reducing leaching potential of Florida sandy soils. However, total marketable yield significantly increased under FI compared with DI. This suggests that although DI may increase early plant growth, the application of DI throughout the season may result in yield reduction. Although N application rates had no significant effects on biomass production, tomato marketable yield with an application rate of 134 kg·ha−1 N was significantly lower compared with other N application rates (179, 224, and 269 kg·ha−1). It was also observed that there were no significant yield benefits with N application rates higher than 179 kg·ha−1. During the fall, iWUE was higher under DI (33.57 kg·m−3) than under FI (25.57 kg·m−3); however, iWUE was similar for both irrigation treatments during spring (FI = 14.04 kg·m−3; DI = 15.29 kg·m−3). The N recovery (REC-N) rate was highest with 134 kg·ha−1 N; however, REC-N was similar with 179, 224, and 269 kg·ha−1 N rates during both fall and spring. Therefore, these study results could suggest that DI could be beneficial to tomato production only when applied during early growth stages, but not throughout the growing season. Both yield and efficiency results indicated that the optimum N requirement for open-field fresh-market tomato production in Florida may not exceed 179 kg·ha−1 N.