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  • Author or Editor: Michela Farneselli x
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Petiole sap testing using ion-specific electrodes is a simple method that can be used to guide in-season applications of N and K to vegetable crops. This method requires petiole sampling and sap extraction using a sap press. Because some vegetables are grown with foliar applications of N and/or K and because some crops have large petioles, petioles may need to be washed and/or cut before being pressed. Because limited information is available on the effect of washing/cutting on sap testing results, muskmelon, bell pepper and tomato petioles were used to test if washing/cutting reduced NO3-N and K concentrations and changed the subsequent interpretation of plant nutritional status. Washing for 30, 60, or 120 seconds in distilled water and cutting petioles before or after washing significantly reduced sap concentrations (p = 0.01 and p = 0.04 for NO3-N and K, respectively) in 7 of 12 tests when compared to the control method (petioles cut and not washed). The average concentration reductions between the control and the lowest value among all the washing/cutting treatments were 30% for NO3-N and 19% for K. These losses due to washing/cutting are likely to change the diagnosis of nutritional status from “sufficient” to “less than sufficient” and therefore may suggest the need for unnecessary fertilizer applications.

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The quantitative assessment of nitrate-nitrogen (NO3-N) leaching below the root zone of vegetable crops grown with plasticulture (called load) may be done using deep (150-cm) soil samples divided into five 30-cm long subsamples. The load is then calculated by multiplying the NO3-N concentration in each subsample by the volume of soil (width × length × depth, W × L × D) wetted by the drip tape. Length (total length of mulched bed per unit surface) and depth (length of the soil subsample) are well known, but W is not. In order to determine W at different depths, two dye tests were conducted on a 7-m deep Lakeland fine sand using standard plasticulture beds. Dye tests consisted in irrigating for up to 38 and 60 hours (11,756 and 18,562 L/100 m of irrigation, respectively), digging transverse sections of the raised beds at set times and taking measurements of D and W at every 30-cm. Most dye patterns were elliptic elongated. Maximum average depths were similar (118 and 119 cm) for both tests despite differences in irrigation duration and physical proximity of both tests (100 m apart in the same field). Overall, D response (cm, both tests combined) to irrigation volume (V) was quadratic (Dcomb.avg = –2 × 10–7V2 + 0.008V + 34), and W responses (applying maximum and average values, Wmax and Wmean) to D (cm) were linear (Wmax = –0.65D+114: Wmean = –0.42D + 79). Predicted Wmax were 104, 84, 64, 44, and 25 cm at 30-cm depth increments. These preliminary values may be use for load calculations, but are likely to over-estimate load as they were determined without transpiring plants and may need to be adjusted for different soil types.

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