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T.K. Hartz, G. Miyao, R.J. Mullen, M.D. Cahn, J. Valencia, and K.L. Brittan

A survey of 140 processing tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) fields in central California was conducted in 1996-97 to examine the relationship between K nutrition and fruit quality for processing. Quality parameters evaluated were soluble solids (SS), pH, color of a blended juice sample, and the percent of fruit affected by the color disorders yellow shoulder (YS) or internal white tissue (IWT). Juice color and pH were not correlated with soil K availability or plant K status. SS was correlated with both soil exchangeable K and midseason leaf K concentration (r = 0.25 and 0.28, p < 0.01) but the regression relationships suggested that the impact of soil or plant K status on fruit SS was minor. YS and IWT incidence, which varied among fields from 0% to 68% of fruit affected, was negatively correlated with K status of both soil and plant. Soil exchangeable K/√Mg ratio was the measure of soil K availability most closely correlated with percent total color disorders (YS + IWT, r = -0.45, p < 0.01). In field trials conducted to document the relationship between soil K availability and the fruit color disorders, soil application of either K or gypsum (CaSO4, to increase K/√Mg ratio) reduced YS and total color disorders. Multiple foliar K applications were effective in reducing fruit color disorders at only one of two sites. In no field trial did K application improve yield, SS, or juice color.