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Free access

Johannes Scholberg, Kelly Morgan, Lincoln Zotarelli, Eric Simonne, and Michael Dukes

Most strategies used to determine crop N fertilizer recommendations do not address potential environmental issues associated with agricul-tural production. Thus, a more holistic approach is required to reduce N loading associated with vegetable crops production on soils that are prone to N leaching. By linking fertilizer N uptake efficiency (FUE) with irrigation management, root interception capacity, and N uptake dynamics, we aim to improve FUE. Nitrogen uptake for peppers, tomato, potato, and sweet corn followed a logistic N accumulation patterns. Up to 80-85% of N uptake occurred between 4 to 7 weeks (sweet corn) vs. 6 to 12 weeks (other crops), while N uptake during initial growth and crop maturation was relatively low. Maximum daily N accumulation rates occurred at 5 weeks (sweet corn) vs. 8-10 weeks (other crops) and maximum daily N uptake rates were 4-8 kg N/ha. Overall FUE for most vegetables may range between 23% and 71%, depending on production practices, soil type, and environmental conditions. Maximum root interception capacity was typically attained 3 to 5 weeks prior to crop maturity. It is concluded that, during initial growth, root interception may the most limiting factor for efficient N use. Although recent uptake studies have shown that FUE may be highest toward the end of the growing season, this may not coincide with the greatest crop demand for N, which occurs during the onset of the linear growth phase. As a result, yield responses to N applied later in the season may be limited. Integration of these results into best management practices and expert systems for vegetable production can minimize the externalities associated with commercial vegetable production on vulnerable soils in the southeastern United States.

Free access

Laura Avila, Johannes Scholberg, Lincoln Zotarelli, and Robert McSorely

Poor water- and nutrient-holding capacity of sandy soils, combined with intense leaching rainfall events, may result in excessive N-fertilizers losses from vegetable production systems. Three cover cropping (CC) systems were used to assess supplemental N-fertilizer requirements for optimal yields of selected vegetable crops. Fertilizer N-rates were 0, 67, 133, 200, and 267; 0, 131, and 196; and 0, 84, 126,168, and 210 kg N/h for sweet corn (Zea mays var. rugosa), broccoli (Brassica oleracea), and watermelon (Citrullus lanatus), respectively. Crop rotations consisted of sunn hemp (Crotalaria juncea) in Fall 2003 followed by hairy vetch (Vicia villosa), and rye (Secale cereale) intercrop or a fallow. During Spring 2004, all plots were planted with sweet corn, followed by either cowpea (Vigna unguiculata) or pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum), which preceded a winter broccoli crop. Hairy vetch and rye mix benefited from residual N from a previous SH crop. This cropping system provided a 5.4 Mg/ha yield increment for sweet corn receiving 67 kg N/ha compared to the conventional system. For the 133 N-rate, CC-based systems produced similar yields compared to conventional systems amended with 200 kg N/ha. Pearl millet accumulated 8.8 Mg/ha—but only 69 kg N/ha—and potential yields with this system were 16% lower compared to cowpea system. For a subsequent watermelon crop, trends were reversed, possibly due to a delay in mineralization for pearl millet. Because of its persistent growth after mowing, hairy vetch hampered initial growth and shading also delayed fruit development. Although CC may accumulate up to 131 kg N/ha actual N benefits, N-fertilizer benefits were only 67 kg N/ha, which may be related to a lack of synchronization between N release and actual crop demand.

Full access

Desire Djidonou, Xin Zhao, Karen E. Koch, and Lincoln Zotarelli

Growth and yield typically increase when tomato plants are grafted to selected interspecific hybrid rootstocks from which distinctive root system morphologies are envisioned to aid nutrient uptake. We assessed these relationships using a range of exogenous nitrogen (N) supplies under field production conditions. This study analyzed the impact of N on growth, root distribution, N uptake, and N use of determinate ‘Florida 47’ tomato plants grafted onto vigorous, interspecific, hybrid tomato rootstocks ‘Multifort’ and ‘Beaufort’. Six N rates, 56, 112, 168, 224, 280, and 336 kg·ha−1, were applied to sandy soil in Live Oak, FL, during Spring 2010 and 2011. During both years, the leaf area index, aboveground biomass, and N accumulation (leaf blade, petiole, stem, and fruit) responded quadratically to the increase in N fertilizer rates. Averaged over the two seasons, the aboveground biomass, N accumulation, N use efficiency (NUE), and N uptake efficiency (NUpE) were ≈29%, 31%, 30%, and 33% greater in grafted plants than in nongrafted controls, respectively. More prominent increases occurred in the root length density (RLD) in the uppermost 15 cm of soil; for grafted plants, RLD values in this upper 15-cm layer were significantly greater than those of nongrafted plants during both years with an average increase of 69% over the two seasons. Across all the grafted and nongrafted plants, the RLD decreased along the soil profile, with ≈60% of the total RLD concentrated in the uppermost 0 to 15 cm of the soil layer. These results demonstrated a clear association between enhanced RLD, especially in the upper 15 cm of soil, and improvements in tomato plant growth, N uptake, and N accumulation with grafting onto vigorous rootstocks.

Full access

Michael D. Dukes, Lincoln Zotarelli, and Kelly T. Morgan

Major horticultural crops in Florida are vegetables, small fruit, melons, and tree fruit crops. Approximately half of the agricultural area and nearly all of the horticultural crop land is irrigated. Irrigation systems include low-volume microirrigation, sprinkler systems, and subsurface irrigation. The present review was divided into two papers, in which the first part focuses on vegetable crop irrigation and the second part focuses on fruit tree crop irrigation. This first part also provides an overview of irrigation methods used in Florida. Factors affecting irrigation efficiency and uniformity such as design and maintenance are discussed. A wide range of soil moisture sensors (e.g., tensiometers, granular matrix, and capacitance) are currently being used in the state for soil moisture monitoring. Current examples of scheduling tools and automated control systems being used on selected crops in Florida are provided. Research data on the effect of irrigation scheduling and fertigation on nutrient movement, particularly nitrate, are reviewed. Concluding this review is a discussion of potential for adoption of irrigation scheduling and control systems for vegetable crops by Florida growers and future research priorities.

Full access

Kelly T. Morgan, Lincoln Zotarelli, and Michael D. Dukes

Florida is the most important center of processed citrus (Citrus spp.) production in the United States, and all of the crop is irrigated. Irrigation systems include low-volume microirrigation, sprinkler systems, and subsurface irrigation. This review details the relative irrigation efficiencies and factors affecting irrigation uniformity such as design and maintenance. A wide range of soil moisture sensors (e.g., tensiometers, granular matrix, and capacitance) are currently being used for citrus in the state. The use of these sensors and crop evapotranspiration estimation using weather information from the Florida Automated Weather Network in irrigation scheduling are discussed. Current examples of scheduling tools and automated control systems being used on selected fruit crops in Florida are provided. Research data on the effect of irrigation scheduling, soluble fertilizer injection, and soil nutrient movement, particularly nitrate and the use of reclaimed water in Florida, are also reviewed. Concluding this review is a discussion of the potential for adoption of irrigation scheduling and control systems for citrus by Florida growers and future research priorities.

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Kathleen G. Haynes, Lincoln Zotarelli, Christian T. Christensen, and Stephanie Walker

Consumer demand for specialty market potatoes has been growing. Cultivated South American diploid potatoes possess great variation for skin and flesh colors, shape, and taste. A long-day adapted population of Solanum tuberosum groups Phureja and Stenotomum (phu-stn) was evaluated for characteristics associated with the type known as papa criolla or papa amarilla in South America. Tubers have intense yellow flesh and may be fried or roasted and eaten whole. A U.S. northern location (Maine), representative of a seed growing region, and two southern locations (Florida and New Mexico), representative of potato growing regions near large Hispanic populations, evaluated yellow-fleshed clones selected within a phu-stn population. Agreement between selectors at two locations was greater than 50%. Tuber skin color and shape were highly correlated between locations; flesh color and tuber dormancy moderately so; eye depth had low correlation between locations; and appearance and skin texture had low or no correlation between locations. Tuber dormancy was generally short, but a few longer dormant clones were identified. There were significant differences among clones for yields, with the highest yields occurring in Maine. More intense evaluations are planned for a subset of these clones before possible release as new varieties. Future breeding efforts will be undertaken to lengthen tuber dormancy in this population.

Open access

Yuru Chang, Lorenzo Rossi, Lincoln Zotarelli, Bin Gao, and Ali Sarkhosh

Muscadine grape is a perennial crop that is highly responsive to local environmental factors and viticulture practices. Biochar is a promising soil amendment used to improve soil water and nutrient retention and promote plant growth. The present study aimed to assess the effects of different pinewood biochar rates on nutrient status and vegetative parameters of muscadine grape cv. Alachua grown on a nutrient-poor sandy soil, Ultisols (97.2% sand, 2.4% silt, and 0.4% clay), and mixed with five different rates (0%, 5%, 10%, 15%, and 20%) of biochar based on weight. Variations in soil moisture, temperature, and leaf greenness value [soil plant analysis development (SPAD) reading], net photosynthesis rate, and plant root and shoot dry weights were measured. In addition, the nutrient status of the soil, plant root, and shoot were determined. The results indicated that the higher rate of biochar could significantly (P < 0.05) improve soil moisture. Biochar can also decrease soil temperature, although there were no significant differences among treatments. Regarding the nutrient status, the biochar amendment increased the nutrient content of phosphorus (P), potassium (K), magnesium (Mg), and calcium (Ca), as well as the soil organic matter content and cation exchange capacity. Higher nutrient contents in soil lead to increased P and Mg in both aboveground and belowground muscadine plant tissues and decreased nitrogen (N), iron (Fe), and copper (Cu) in the root part. There were no significant differences observed in SPAD values, net photosynthesis, or dry weights of the root and shoot. This study demonstrates that the addition of biochar may enhance the soil water and nutrient status as well as improve plant P and Mg uptake; however, it showed no significant differences in the physiological performance of muscadine grape plants.

Free access

Lincoln Zotarelli, Johannes Scholberg, Michael Dukes, Hannah Snyder, Eric Simonne, and Michael Munoz-Carpena

On sandy soils, potential N contamination of groundwater resources associated with intensively managed vegetables may hamper the sustainability of these systems. The objective of this study was to evaluate the interaction between irrigation system design/scheduling and N fertilization rates on zucchini production and potential N leaching. Zucchini was planted during Fall 2005 using three N fertilizer rates (73, 145, 217 kg/ha) and four different irrigation approaches. Irrigation scheduling included surface-applied drip irrigation and fertigation: SUR1 (141 mm applied) and SUR2 (266 mm) using irrigation control system (QIC) that allowed time-based irrigation (up to five events per day) and a threshold setting of 13% and 15% volumetric water content (VWC), respectively; Subsurface drip irrigation (SDI) using a QIC setting of 10% VWC (116 mm) combined with surface applied fertigation; and a control treatment with irrigation applied once daily (424 mm). Leacheate volumes were measured by drainage lysimeters. Nitrate leaching increased with irrigation rate and N rate and measured values ranged from 4 to 42 kg N/ha. Use of SDI greatly reduced nitrate leaching compared to other treatments. SDI and SUR1 treatments had no effect on yields (29 Mg/ha). However, SDI had a 15% and 479% higher water use efficiency (WUE) compared to SUR1 and the fixed irrigation duration treatment. Application of N in excess of intermediate N-rate (standard recommendation) did not increase yield but yield was reduced at the lowest N-rate. It is concluded that combining sensor-based SDI with surface applied fertigation resulted similar or higher yields while it reduced both water use and potential N leaching because of improved nutrient retention in the active root zone.

Free access

Mildred N. Makani, Steven A. Sargent, Lincoln Zotarelli, Donald J. Huber, and Charles A. Sims

Early-maturing potato cultivars (Solanum tuberosum L.) grown in many subtropical and tropical regions are typically packed and shipped without curing. The objective of this study was to evaluate two early-maturing potato cultivars (‘Fabula’ and ‘Red LaSoda’) grown under four nitrogen fertilizer (NF) rates and harvested at three intervals after vine kill for effects on tuber physical and compositional quality at harvest and during storage. NF was applied through fertigation (0, 112, 224, or 336 kg·ha−1) and compared with granular NF application (224 kg·ha−1). The tubers were harvested weekly after vine kill (H1, H2, and H3) then evaluated for quality at 7 and 14 days during storage at 10 °C/80% to 85% relative humidity (RH). ‘Fabula’ tubers from H1 had the highest cumulative weight loss (3.6%) after 14 days of storage (season 1), while those from both H1 and H2 were highest (4.4%) in season 2, regardless of NF application method or rate. Tuber firmness increased by 1.5 newtons (N) for tubers from H1 after 7 days storage, and again by 0.76 N after 14 days for tubers from H2 and H3. Periderm dry matter content (DMC) for H1 tubers increased to 13.9% after 7 days, regardless of fertilizer treatment, in contrast to those from H2 or H3 where DMC remained constant throughout storage (10.6% and 11.4%, respectively). For ‘Red LaSoda’, cumulative weight loss in season 1 for H1 tubers was 2.2% after 14 days storage, whereas that for H2 and H3 tubers averaged 0.7%; this trend was similar for season 2. Periderm DMC significantly increased with increased storage time; that for H2 tubers was highest (19.6%) after 14 days. In both cultivars, tuber ascorbic acid content (AAC), soluble solids content (SSC), and total titratable acidity (TTA) remained constant throughout the 14-day storage period. Periderm maturity of ‘Fabula’ and ‘Red LaSoda’ potatoes had a greater effect on tuber physical and compositional quality during storage than the fertilizer rates or application methods. Fertigation at NF rates of 112, 224 or 336 kg·ha−1 was comparable with conventional granular NF application for growing high-quality tubers with acceptable postharvest life. Growing tubers at 112 kg·ha−1 nitrogen via fertigation has the potential to reduce both irrigation water usage and fertilizer runoff during the production cycle.

Free access

Fernanda Souza Krupek, Christian T. Christensen, Charles E. Barrett, and Lincoln Zotarelli

The cost of seed accounts for nearly 10% of the estimated production cost of chipping potato (Solanum tuberosum) production in Florida. Optimizing seed piece spacing can reduce costs without affecting potato yield. This study evaluated the effects of seed piece spacing on yield, quality, and economic revenue of chipping potato production in north Florida. A field experiment was conduct during the spring of 2013, 2014, and 2016 in Hastings, FL, with a split-plot randomized complete block design. In-row seed piece spacings of 10, 15, 20 (industry standard), 25, and 30 cm were assigned as the main plot and S. tuberosum potato cultivars (Atlantic, Harley Blackwell, and Elkton) as the subplots. Marketable tuber yield ranged between 10.8 and 15.2 Mg·ha−1 in 2013, 10.1 and 12.8 Mg·ha−1 in 2014, and 9.9 and 19.7 Mg·ha−1 in 2016. Overall lower yields in 2013 were due to three freeze events early in the season. Widening seed piece spacing resulted in a linear decrease in total and marketable yield in 2013 and 2014. Conversely, seed piece spacings of 10 and 15 cm showed lower marketable yields in 2016. There was no interaction between in-row spacing and cultivar in any year tested. Cultivars performed variably across years for total and marketable yield and specific gravity. Tuber specific gravity was unaffected by seed piece spacing, except in 2013, when 25 and 30 cm resulted in slightly higher values. There was no significant difference in total and marketable yield between the industry standard seed piece spacing 20 and 25 cm in any year. In-row spacing of 25 cm in 2013 and 30 cm seed piece spacing in 2014 and 2016 provided the greatest economic return. Net revenue can be increased by adjusting the in-row seed piece spacing from the commercial standard of 20 to 25 cm, which reduces production cost without negatively impacting yields.