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T.K. Hartz, M. LeStrange, and D.M. May

The response of bell pepper (Capsicum annuum L.) to five rates of N fertigation between 0 and 336 kg N/ha was studied at two drip-irrigated sites [Univ. of California, Davis (UCD) and West Side Field Station, Five Points (WSFS)] in California in 1992. Nitrogen application, in the form of a urea: ammonium nitrate mixture (UN-32), was applied in eight (WSFS) or 10 (UCD) equal weekly increments, beginning after transplant establishment. At both sites, fruit yield and mean fruit size peaked at 252 kg N/ha, with additional N retarding crop productivity. Maximum fruit yield was obtained by fertility treatments that maintained petiole NO3-N concentration >5000 μg·g-1 through the early fruit bulking period. Two techniques for monitoring crop N status, designed for field use, were evaluated. There was a close relationship between the NO3-N concentration of fresh petiole extracts, as measured by a portable, battery-operated nitrate selective electrode, and dry tissue analyzed by conventional laboratory technique (r2 = 0.89). Relative chlorophyll concentration, measured nondestructively by a dual-wavelength leaf absorbance meter, was poorly correlated with whole-leaf N concentration (r2 = 0.55). However, the ratio of such chlorophyll readings for a treatment compared to an in-field reference of known N sufficiency (252 kg·ha-1 treatment) showed promise as a technique for identifying N deficiency.

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T.K. Hartz, K.S. Mayberry, M.E. McGiffen, M. LeStrange, G. Miyao, and A. Baameur

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P.R. Johnstone, T.K. Hartz, M. LeStrange, J.J. Nunez, and E.M. Miyao

Fruit soluble solids concentration (SSC) is an important quality factor for tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) grown for processing. The use of drip irrigation often results in undesirably low SSC. The effects of late-season irrigation management on fruit yield and SSC was investigated in a series of drip-irrigated field trials in California from 2000–04. The effects of irrigation cutoff or deficit irrigation implemented 40 to 50 days preharvest (the period corresponding to the initiation of fruit ripening) were compared to a standard grower practice of irrigation cutoff 20 days preharvest. Irrigation cutoff 40 to 50 days preharvest increased SSC but resulted in substantial yield loss, with significantly reduced brix yield (Mg fruit solids ha-1). By contrast, deficit irrigation significantly increased SSC compared to the standard practice, with no significant loss of brix yield. In three commercial fields the effect of deficit irrigation on fruit SSC was investigated. Fruits were sampled on three dates: 1) 4 to 5 weeks preharvest, early-ripening, pink-stage fruit only, 2) about 1 week preharvest, both late-ripening, pink-stage fruit and early-ripening fruit now fully ripe, and 3) commercial harvest, composite of early- and late-maturing fruit. SSC increased in response to soil moisture stress induced by deficit irrigation, with late-maturing fruit as much as 1.6 °brix higher than fruit maturing before significant soil moisture stress. However, once a fruit reached the pink stage of maturity, its SSC was not affected by subsequent soil moisture stress. An additional five commercial field trials were conducted to compare growers' irrigation practices with greater degrees of deficit irrigation. In each field the grower's deficit irrigation regime was compared to a reduced treatment receiving 25% to 50% less water over the final 4 to 7 weeks before harvest. Across fields, applying 20% to 60% of reference evapotranspiration (ETo) over the fruit ripening period resulted in acceptable SSC without significant brix yield reduction. We conclude that deficit irrigation initiated during early fruit ripening provides a flexible tool for SSC management. Brix monitoring of earliest ripening fruit can help classify fields as to the severity of irrigation deficit required to reach desirable SSC at harvest.

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T.K. Hartz*, P.R. Johnstone, M. LeStrange, J.J. Nunez, and E.M. Miyao

Soluble solids concentration (SSC) is a major quality factor for tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) grown for processing. The effects of early irrigation cutback were investigated in a series of drip-irrigated field trials in California from 2000-03. Irrigation cutback was initiated from 4-7 weeks preharvest, with irrigation volume reduced to 30% to 70% of reference evapotranspiration. Early irrigation cutback was compared to full irrigation until cutoff 2-3 weeks preharvest. SSC was monitored from the initiation of deficit irrigation until harvest, with breaker-stage fruit sampled at approximately 10-day intervals; additionally, early-maturing fruits were tagged on the plant at breaker stage and retrieved at harvest for SSC analysis. Fruit yield, overall SSC, and brix yield (Mg·ha-1 fruit solids) were evaluated at commercial maturity. Fruit SSC increased in response to soil moisture stress, with late-maturing fruit as much as 2.0 °Brix higher than fruit maturing before significant moisture stress. However, once a fruit reached the breaker stage of maturity, its SSC did not increase regardless of subsequent soil moisture stress. Across field trials, yield decline resulting from early irrigation cutback was matched by a corresponding increase in overall SSC, resulting in equivalent brix yield in all test fields. We conclude that the early irrigation cutback provides a flexible tool for SSC management and that °Brix monitoring of breaker-stage fruit can augment soil moisture monitoring to tune irrigation management to field-specific conditions.