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Luther C. Carson and Monica Ozores-Hampton

The purpose of this article is to review nitrogen (N) controlled-release fertilizer (CRF) research methods used to measure nutrient release from CRFs. If CRF-N release patterns match vegetable crop needs, crop N uptake may become more efficient, thus resulting in similar or greater yields, reduced fertilizer N needs, and reduced environmental N losses. Three methods categories to estimate N release are: laboratory; growth chamber, greenhouse, or both; and field methods. Laboratory methods include a standard and accelerated temperature-controlled incubation methods (TCIMs); methods incubate CRF using selected time periods, temperatures, and/or sampling methods. Accelerated TCIMs, in contrast to the standard method, allow for shorter incubation periods. Growth chamber and greenhouse methods, including column and plastic bag studies, may be used to test new CRF products in conditions similar to particular vegetable production systems. However, the column method predicts N release from CRFs more effectively than the plastic bag method because of ammonia volatilization and lower N recovery rates associated with the bag method. Both field methods, pot-in-pot and pouch methods, are viable vegetable research options. The pouch method measures N remaining in the CRF prill and the pot-in-pot method measures N released from the CRF, thus each method can be applied to different research objectives. Nitrogen released during incubation may be measured using methods such as total Kjeldahl N (TKN), prill weight loss, combustion, colorimetric, or ion-specific electrodes. The prill weight loss method is the least expensive but can only be used with urea CRF. Thus, the CRF-N source(s) and research objectives will determine the appropriate N analysis method. More research needs to be completed on correlations of field and laboratory CRF extractions. Field release methods should be considered the most reliable indicator of CRF-N performance until a laboratory method reliably predicts CRF-N expected field response.

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Luther C. Carson and Monica Ozores-Hampton

This publication summarizes the factors influencing controlled-release fertilizer (CRF) nutrient release, CRF placement, CRF rate, and CRF application timing for the two major seepage-irrigated vegetable production systems (plasticulture and open-bed) in Florida. One of several best management practices for vegetable production, CRF helps growers achieve total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) established in Florida under the Federal Clean Water Act. Several factors intrinsic to CRF and to the vegetable production systems affect CRF nutrient release, making implementation of CRF fertility programs challenging. Increasing or decreasing soil temperature increases or decreases nutrient release from CRF. Soil moisture required for uninhibited plant growth is within the soil moisture range for optimum CRF nutrient release. CRF substrate affects nutrient release rate, which is inversely related to coating thickness and granule size. Soil microbes, soil texture, and soil pH do not influence nutrient release rate. Field placement of CRFs in seepage-irrigated, plasticulture, and open-bed production should be in the bottom mix at bed formation and soil incorporated or banded at planting, respectively. In plasticulture production systems, soil fumigation and delayed planting for continuous harvest may add a 14- to 21-day lag period between fertilization and planting, which along with different season lengths will influence CRF release length selected by growers. Using a hybrid fertilizer system in plasticulture production or incorporating CRF at planting in open-bed production allows for up to a 25% reduction in the nitrogen (N) rate needed.

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Luther C. Carson, Joshua H. Freeman, Kequan Zhou, Gregory Welbaum and Mark Reiter

Few studies have compared the growth and yield of commercial edamame (Glycine max) cultivars in the mid-Atlantic United States. This study determined yield potential, yield components, and lipid and protein contents of five edamame cultivars [BeSweet 292 (BS292), BeSweet 2015 (BS2015), BeSweet 2001 (BS2001), Midori Giant (MG), and Sunrise (SR)] grown in Painter, VA, during 2008 and 2009. Pod yield ranged between 5002 and 7521 lb/acre. There were no differences in total yield among ‘MG’, ‘BS292’, or ‘SR’. ‘BS2015’ had the lowest yield, while the yield of ‘BS2001’ was not different from other cultivars tested. Percent marketable pods ranged from 74.3% to 85.6%, with no differences among cultivars. ‘SR’ had the greatest average seed weight in 2008 and ‘BS2001’ had the smallest; intermediate was ‘MG’, ‘BS292’, and ‘BS2001’, although ‘MG’ was not different from ‘SR’. ‘MG’ had the greatest average seed weight in 2009; there were no differences among the remaining cultivars. The cultivar lipid content was numerically lower in 2009 than in 2008 for all five cultivars. ‘BS292’ and ‘BS2001’ had the least and greatest protein concentrations with 36.1% and 38.3% in 2008, respectively. In 2009, ‘MG’ and ‘SR’ had the least and greatest protein concentrations with 35.7% and 39.5%, respectively. Edamame appears to be a viable alternative crop for Virginia with yields similar to snap beans (Phaseolus vulgaris). ‘MG’, ‘BS292’, and ‘SR’ produced consistently high yields and quality and are viable cultivar choices for the mid-Atlantic United States.

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Luther C. Carson, Monica Ozores-Hampton, Kelly T. Morgan and Steven A. Sargent

Florida best management practices include the use of controlled-release fertilizers (CRFs), which are soluble nutrients coated with a resin, polymer, sulfur, or a polymer covering a sulfur-coated urea. The purpose of this study was to compare the effects of three CRFs (coated, homogenized NH4NO3 and urea, and coated KNO3) rates in a hybrid CRF/soluble nitrogen fertilizer (SNF) system and two SNF rates [University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Science (UF/IFAS) and grower standard] on seepage-irrigated fall tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) yields, leaf-tissue nitrogen (LTN) concentration, postseason soil nitrogen (N) content, and postharvest fruit quality. Treatments of 112, 168, and 224 kg·ha−1 CRF N plus 56 kg·ha−1 SNF for total N of 168 (CRF112/SNF56), 224, and 280 kg·ha−1 were compared with IFAS (224 kg·ha−1) and grower standard (280 kg·ha−1) of pre-plant SNF. Tomatoes were planted on 29 Aug. 2011 and 3 Sept. 2012 on polyethylene mulch. Air temperature averaged 23.0 and 22.6 °C for the 2011 and 2012 fall seasons with 33.4 and 37.4 cm of rainfall, respectively. Soil temperatures ranged from 15.2 to 40.1 °C in 2011 and 13.6 to 36.6 °C in 2012. Leaf tissue N concentration exceeded the UF/IFAS-recommended sufficiency range for all treatments and sample dates, except CRF112/SNF56 at the last sample date of 2012. There were no differences in extra-large and total marketable yield at first harvest nor in total extra-large yield (three harvests combined) among treatments in 2011; however, total marketable yield for UF/IFAS, CRF112/SNF56, 168/SNF56, and 224/SNF56 was greater than that of the grower standard. In 2012, CRF112/SNF56 and CRF168/SNF56 had the greatest first harvest extra-large and total yield, but there were no differences between season total marketable yields. No differences between treatments were found for total N remaining in the soil postseason in 2011 or 2012. The grower standard, UF/IFAS, and CRF112/SNF56 were firmer at red ripe (less fruit deformation) in 2011, but there were no differences in 2012. In 2011, CRF112/SNF56 and CRF224/SNF56 were rated highest in red color among the treatments, and in 2012 there were no differences. A hybrid system containing lower and equal N rates (112 to 168 kg·ha−1 CRF N and 56 kg·ha−1 SNF56) compared with UF/IFAS-recommended rates produced comparable marketable yield and fruit quality.

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Luther C. Carson, Monica Ozores-Hampton, Kelly T. Morgan and Jerry B. Sartain

Determination of nutrient release duration from controlled-release fertilizers (CRFs) or soluble fertilizers encapsulated in polymer, resin, or sulfur covered fertilizer coated with a polymer differs among manufacturers, but may be determined as 75% to 80% nitrogen (N) release at a constant temperature (e.g., 20 to 25 °C). Increases or decreases in temperature compared with the manufacturer release determination temperature increase or decrease CRF N release; thus, coated fertilizer may release more rapidly than stated during the fall season when soil temperatures in seepage-irrigated tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) production can reach 40.1 °C. The objectives of this study were to evaluate N release duration of CRFs by measuring N release from CRFs incubated in pouches under polyethylene mulch-covered raised beds and to determine the CRF duration suitable for incorporation into a fall tomato fertility program. In 2011 and 2013, 12 and 14 CRFs from Agrium Advanced Technologies, Everris, Florikan, and Chisso-Asahi Fertilizer were sealed in fiberglass mesh pouches (12.7 × 14 cm) that were buried 10 cm below the bed surface in a tomato crop grown using commercial production practices. A data logger collected soil temperature 10 cm below the bed surface. Pouches were collected and N content was measured eight times through two fall seasons. A nonlinear regression model was fit to the data to determine N release rate. During the 2011 and 2013 seasons, minimum, average, and maximum soil temperatures were 21.2 and 19.2, 25.7 and 23.5, and 32.2 and 27.7 °C, respectively. Seasonal total CRF N release was between 77.6% and 93.8% during 2011 and 58.3% and 94.3% in 2013. In 2011, PCU90 and in 2013, PCU90 and PCNPK120 had the highest seasonal total percentage N release (PNR) and FL180 had the lowest in both years. A nonlinear regression fit N release from CRF with R 2 = 0.85 to 0.99 during 2011 and 0.49 to 0.99 during 2013. Nitrogen release from all CRFs was faster than the manufacturer’s stated release, probably as a result of high fall bed temperatures. A CRF or CRF mixture containing CRFs of 120- to 180-day release duration may be recommended, but the CRFs must release greater than 75% N during the season.

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Luther C. Carson, Monica Ozores-Hampton, Kelly T. Morgan and Jerry B. Sartain

Controlled-release fertilizers (CRFs), a vegetable production best management practice in Florida, are soluble fertilizers (SFs) coated with a polymer, resin, or a hybrid of polymer coating sulfur-coated urea. In 1994, a Controlled Release Fertilizer Taskforce developed an accelerated temperature-controlled incubation method (ATCIM) to predict column-incubated CRF nitrogen (N) release for regulatory purposes. Determination of CRF field N release uses a field method such as a pouch field study, which requires multiple samples and high costs for laboratory N analysis. If the ATCIM may be used to predict CRF N release in the field, then vegetables growers will have a faster and lower-cost method to determine N release compared with the pouch field method. Therefore, the objective of this study was to evaluate the correlation of the ATCIM and the pouch field method as a predictor of N release from CRFs in tomato production in Florida. In 2011 and 2013, 12 and 14 CRFs, respectively, were incubated in pouches placed in polyethylene mulched raised beds in Immokalee, FL, and extracted in the ATCIM during 2013. The ATCIM CRF results were used individually and grouped by release duration to create predicted N release curves in a two-step correlation process. The two-step processes predicted the percentage N release of individual CRF with R 2 of 0.95 to 0.99 and 0.61 to 0.99 and CRFs grouped by release duration with R 2 of –0.64 to 0.99 and –0.38 to 0.95 in 2011 and 2013, respectively. Modeling CRF N release grouped by release duration would not be recommended for CRF 180-d release (DR), because coating technologies behaviors differ in response to high fall soil temperature in polyethylene mulched beds. However, with further model calibration, grouping CRFs of 90 to 140 DR to simulate the CRF N release profile may allow the ATCIM to predict CRF N release without performing the pouch field method, which currently negated the usefulness of the ATCIM in a tomato production system.

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Luther C. Carson, Monica Ozores-Hampton, Kelly T. Morgan and Steven A. Sargent

Controlled-release fertilizer (CRF) use is a best management practice that may reduce nitrogen (N) loss to the environment. Several factors affect CRF nutrient release; therefore, including CRF in a fertilization program may have challenges. Thus, the study objective was to evaluate the effects of CRF N rate, source, release duration, and placement on seepage-irrigated marketable tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) yield, leaf tissue N (LTN) concentration, post-season soil N content, and postharvest fruit firmness and color. There were two soluble fertilizer (SF) controls [University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences (UF/IFAS) (224 kg·ha−1) and grower standard (280 kg·ha−1)] and six and seven CRF treatments (alone or in combination with SF) in Fall 2011 and 2012, respectively. Cumulative rainfall totaled 31.4 and 37.4 cm during the 2011 and 2012 seasons with average air temperatures of 22.4 and 22.1 °C, respectively. Soil temperatures ranged from 14.2 to 40.6 °C in 2011 and 11.1 to 36.6 °C in 2012 with a strong correlation (r = 0.95) to air temperature. Controlled-release urea resulted in 7.5% to 17.9% plant mortality in 2011 and reduced yields in 2012 compared with CRF N–phosphorus–potassium (NPK) at a similar N rate. LTN concentrations were above or within the sufficiency range for all treatments. In 2011, using CRF-urea at 190 kg·ha−1 N produced similar marketable tomato yield in all fruit categories except season total large tomatoes, which produced significantly fewer marketable tomatoes with 13.5 Mg·ha−1 compared with UF/IFAS and grower standard with 17.9 and 14.2 Mg·ha−1, respectively. In 2012, CRF-NPK (168 kg·ha−1 N) significantly reduced first and second harvest combined large and season total large and total marketable yields compared with the UF/IFAS rate and grower standard treatments. Marketable yield was not significantly affected by CRF (urea or NPK) release duration, but CRF-NPK 180-day release duration significantly increased residual soil N in 2012 compared with CRF-NPK 120-day release with 74.2 and 34.3 kg·ha−1 N, respectively. Rototilling CRF-urea into the bed, which was only evaluated in 2011, significantly increased total season yields compared with CRF-urea broadcast in row before bedding (BIR) with 43.0 and 46.5 Mg·ha−1, respectively. There were no significant yield differences when 50% or 75% of the total N was CRF placed in the hybrid fertilizer system, which is a system with CRF placed BIR with the remaining N as SF-N banded on the bed shoulders. No significant differences among treatments were found for total residual soil N in 2011; however, higher soil N remained in CRF (NPK and urea) treatments compared with SF treatments in 2012, except for Treatment 9. No significant differences were found among treatments for fruit firmness or color in 2011 or 2012. CRF-NPK at 190 to 224 kg·ha−1 N with a 120-day release may be recommended as a result of similar or greater first harvest and total season marketable yields compared with IFAS-recommended rates and low residual soil N. Further research must be conducted to explore CRF placement and percentage urea composition, although use of the hybrid system or rototilling may be recommended.