The response of root growth in containers has been studied in recent decades. The objective was to evaluate the effect of four types of containers on root and shoot growth. The containers were two shapes, round and square, and in some containers, internal vertical walls (IVWs) were placed that increased the internal container surface area with two substrates: perlite and coir fiber. Seedlings of cucumber, pepper, and tomato were transplanted. Two experiments were performed: vegetative growth and drought stress by partial decapitation and a period without fertigation. After decapitation, preexisting and new leaf area, dry biomass or the leaves, and stem were measured. The results revealed that the type of container had no effect, nor were there significant differences between substrates. The containers with IVWs exhibited an increase in biomass and the root surface. The total contact surface with the substrate of the four container types was closely related to the recorded plant growth. Thus, IVWs not only decrease mechanical problems of roots by preventing spiralling but also favor the production of biomass in vegetable plants and substantially increase the root, enabling the plants to manage water deficit and potentially improve posttransplant stress.
Jesús Gallegos, Juan E. Álvaro, and Miguel Urrestarazu
Miguel Urrestarazu, Juan E. Alvaro, Soraya Moreno, and Gilda Carrasco
The aim of this study was to evaluate the remediation of ferric chlorosis using by iron (Fe)-o,o-EDDHA in fertigation of soilless crops compared with Fe-EDTA (ethylene diamine tetra acetic acid) and its effects on production. Two separate greenhouse experiments were conducted in slab or bag cultures using the tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill. cv. Daniela) and green bean crops (Phaseolus vulgaris L. cv. Maite) in Almería (southeast Spain). The crops were subjected to the following experimental setup: 1) At first phase, all plants were treated with a standard nutrient solution and Fe was supplied as Fe-EDTA. 2) No Fe was supplied in the nutrient solution to bean crops 46 days after transplanting. For tomato plants, this element was eliminated from the nutrient solution since 102 days after transplanting. In this phase, Fe-EDTA was supplied to the control plants (T1). This phase was ended when signs of ferric chlorosis appeared on the leaves. 3) The ferric chlorosis was remediated with either Fe-EDTA (T2) or Fe-o,o-EDDHA (T3). The T4 group did not receive any supplements. The total tomato and bean production was improved after the Fe deficiency had been corrected by either EDTA and Fe o,o-EDDHA supplements in the fertigation of these crops. The synthetic Fe o,o-EDDHA chelate alleviated Fe deficiency by increasing the amount of iron in the rhizosphere and its supply to the leaves and petioles. Consequently, the decrease in tomato and bean production resulting from ferric chlorosis could be prevented. As a conclusion, the remediation of ferric chlorosis through fertigation with Fe o,o-EDDHA is as effective as the use of traditional Fe-EDTA.
Cristian Moya, Eduardo Oyanedel, Gabriela Verdugo, M. Fernanda Flores, Miguel Urrestarazu, and Juan E. Álvaro
Greenhouse tomato production is shifting to meet emerging consumer needs. Increasing environmental concerns have pressured growers to supply high-quality vegetables using sustainable production methods. The utilization of adapting fertigation to production conditions and/or nutrient solutions of moderately high conductivity seems promising in providing high yields of superior quality while limiting the emission of nutrients to the environment in greenhouse tomato crops. A tomato crop was grown in soilless culture with various levels of electrical conductivity (EC), 2.2, 3.5, and 4.5 dS·m−1, adjusting the final nutrient concentration and maintaining nutritional balance. The effect of nutrient solutions with moderately high EC on fertigation parameters and the emission of nutrients to the environment, total crop productivity, distribution of fruit sizes, and dietary and organoleptic qualities were measured. Nutrient solutions of moderately high EC decreased total and commercial yield, with an average reduction from 5% to 19% and 3% to 22%, respectively. A considerable decrease in extra large and large fruits, with an average reduction from 69% to 42%, was also observed. Nonetheless, dietary-related metabolites were significantly increased at the highest EC values: lycopene (6.3%), ascorbic acid (8.8%), total phenolics content (8.3%), and total antioxidant activity (11.1%). EC values of 3.5 and 4.5 dS·m−1 are not widely used in commercial production but are frequently measured in drainage solutions in open hydroponic systems and discarded solutions in closed systems, mainly because of the use of poor-quality water and the accumulation of excess nutrients.
Judith Pozo, Miguel Urrestarazu, Isidro Morales, Jessica Sánchez, Milagrosa Santos, Fernando Dianez, and Juan E. Álvaro
The silicon (Si) percentage in the dry matter of plants is between 0.1% and 10%, and even though its role in the metabolism of plants is not absolutely clear, Si’s positive effects on plant nutrition and plant protection against both biotic and abiotic stress are well documented. However, Si is not considered to be an essential element, so it is not always present in nutrient solutions. In this paper, an experiment was carried out in the University of Almeria’s greenhouse with hydroponic lettuce, tomato, pepper, melon, and cucumber plants. A standard nutrient solution was used as a control sample and was fertigated with Si. During the four-true-leaf seedling stage, various plant growth parameters were measured, including the dry weight and the wet weight as well as the foliar surface and the cuticle thickness of both the leaf and the stem. Additionally, in the lettuce, tomato, and pepper plants, the effect of the use of Si in the nutrient solution on the protection against the pathogen Botrytis cinerea was determined by measuring the penetration of the pathogen through the cuticle and the extension of the fungal infection by using leaf discs. The results suggest that all of the studied parameters, and both the cuticle thickness and the epidermis thickness, were increased by more than 10% on average for all of the plants. In the lettuce, tomato, and pepper plants, a beneficial effect against B. cinerea was observed when the nutrient solution containing Si was used.
Miguel Urrestarazu, Isidro Morales, Tommaso La Malfa, Ruben Checa, Anderson F. Wamser, and Juan E. Álvaro
The management of water and nutrient ions, such as nitrate, has been studied extensively in recent decades. Increasingly efficient models have been developed for the use of water and nutrients through the automation of fertigation techniques. The application of a fertigation volume for a duration four times longer than applied on the control was evaluated. In Almería (Spain), one pepper crop and two tomato crops—with and without grafting—were grown between Oct. 2013 and June 2014 in a soilless system with a coir substrate. The effects on root growth, plant growth, production, and quality were measured. The following parameters for the fertigation of the nutrient solution and drainage were recorded: % drainage volume, electrical conductivity (EC) of the nutrient solution, pH, and concentration of nitrates and potassium. The absorption of potassium and nitrate, and the nitrate emissions of the drainage were estimated. The results showed an increase in the root volume and an improved distribution in the cultivation unit for the treatment application in the pepper crop. Slowing the applied fertigation improved the absorption of water and nitrates, and the production in the ungrafted tomato and pepper crops, while the grafted tomato crop was unaffected. Nitrate emissions were lower in the evaluated treatment of the pepper and ungrafted tomato crops. The fruit quality parameters were unaffected.
Victor M. Gallegos-Cedillo, Juan E. Álvaro, Th. Capatos, T. Luan Hachmann, Gilda Carrasco, and Miguel Urrestarazu
The effect of pH and silicon (Si) in the nutrient solution on the vegetative development of 2-year-old blueberry plants (Vaccinium corymbosum L. cv. Ventura) was studied. Two independent experiments were performed on coir fiber (CF) and sand as substrates. In experiment 1, Si was applied in the nutrient solution at a dose of 0.0, 0.3, 0.6, and 1.2 mm. In experiment 2, plants were treated with nutrient solution at pH 4.00, 4.75, 5.50, and 6.25, using two sources of acidification: nitric acid and citric acid. The parameters of plant growth, foliar surface, and stem biomass were measured. With the application of 1.2 mm Si to CF, plant height registered a significant increase of 8%, and shoot dry and fresh biomass increased by 21% and 25%, respectively. The results of experiment 1 indicated that the application of Si benefits the vegetative growth of blueberry plants in CF, but no effect was observed in the sand substrate. In the results of experiment 2, the pH level of 6.25 in CF decreased the dry weight of stems and leaves by 21% and 18%, respectively. A significant increase in the pH range of 4.00 to 5.50 was recorded in both the citric acid and nitric acid treatments, but these significant effects were not found in sand. Citric acid presented a similar behavior to nitric acid, which indicates that it can be a good source of acidification in organic and ecologically friendly crops.
Judith Pozo, Juan E. Álvaro, Isidro Morales, Josefa Requena, Tommaso La Malfa, Pilar C. Mazuela, and Miguel Urrestarazu
Volcanic rock has been used for decades as a horticultural substrate worldwide. In Spain, the use of this material as a substrate is ancient; it was initially used in the Canary Islands because of its volcanic geological origin. At the University of Almería (Almería, Spain), three independent vegetable crops were grown under greenhouse conditions: sweet pepper, tomato, and melon. The volcanic rock came from a location in the geographic center of Spain, which facilitated logistics. Bags of volcanic rock (25 L) were used and were compared with a commercial coconut fiber substrate of an equal volume. All physical, physical–chemical, and chemical parameters of the volcanic rock were determined using European standard analytical procedures. Fertigation was applied, independently adapted to the physical, physical–chemical, and chemical characteristics of each substrate. The cultures were performed under a randomized complete block experimental design. Fertigation parameters, pollutant emissions, fruit production, and the quality of each culture were measured. The results showed that the assessed parameters of the volcanic rock substrate are not a limiting factor for its use as a horticultural substrate. The resultant production and quality were very similar among the three crops compared with a widely used commercial control. Therefore, volcanic rock emerges as a local, sustainable alternative to be used for soilless crop cultivation.