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Timothy Coolong, Andre Luiz Biscaia Ribeiro da Silva and Justin Shealey

High-value vegetable crops such as bell pepper (Capsicum annuum) are heavily fertilized by growers who seek to maximize yields. Field experiments were conducted in Spring 2016 and 2017 evaluating two liquid fertilizers with and without calcium (Ca), applied at three nitrogen (N) and potassium (K) levels in two varieties of bell pepper to determine whether current fertilizer recommendations were adequate and whether fertilizer source impacted fruit yield and quality. Plants were grown using plastic mulch and drip irrigation following standard production practices for the region. Two liquid fertilizer programs [7N–0P–5.8 (7–0–7) and 4N–0P–6.6K/9N–0P–0K–11Ca (4–0–8/CN9)] were applied twice weekly at three N rates (175, 200, and 225 lb/acre N). Yield, cull rate, and foliar nutrient concentrations were measured. In 2016, total marketable yields were greatest [910 boxes/acre (28 lb/box)] and blossom end rot (BER) incidence (14.4%) lowest in plants grown with the supplemental Ca (4–0–8/C9 fertilizer) at 175 lb/acre N. Cull rates increased in plants grown without supplemental Ca during the season (7–0–7 fertilizer), with BER incidence ranging from 22.9% to 27.2%. Yields ranged from 590 to 740 boxes/acre in plants grown without supplemental Ca in 2016. In 2017, yields ranged from 530 to 790 boxes/acre in plants grown with supplemental Ca at 200 and 175 lb/acre N, respectively. Culls due to BER were lower in 2017 than in 2016. In 2016, BER incidence was greater in ‘PSO9979325’ compared with ‘Antebellum’, despite no differences in total yield. Foliar nutrient levels were largely unaffected by fertilizer program; however, foliar N and K concentrations increased with the rate of N and K fertilization. The results of this study suggest that using liquid fertilizer program containing some Ca may benefit bell pepper growers in some, but not all, growing seasons.