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Isidro Morales and Miguel Urrestarazu

In recent decades, salinity in the culture of tomatoes has been one of the most studied parameters. This study aimed to evaluate the effect of a moderate increase in salinity, fertigation distribution, and its control using thermography on a soilless culture of grafted tomato. A tomato crop (cv. Ramyle) grafted onto tomato rootstocks (cv. Emperor) was cultivated in coir crop units at the University of Almeria from Nov. 2012 to May 2013. A plot design subdivided with four blocks was used, with salinity values of 2.0 and 2.5 dS·m−1 in the main plots and fertigation distribution systems with either one (DD1) or four (DD4) drip manifolds in the subplots. The crop productivity was measured using total crop yield, commercial value, and size. The quality parameters in the fruits were not significantly affected. Thermographies were used to aid the control of differential transpiration exerted by salinity. The difference in salinity did not significantly affect the total or commercial production. However, despite being grafted plants, there was a statistically significant effect (P ≤ 0.05) on the fruit size distribution when the electrical conductivity (EC) of the nutrient solution was increased from 2.0 to 2.5 dS·m−1, with a lower production (16%) of large fruits and an increased production of smaller fruits. The DD4 system significantly increased large tomato production (22%) compared with DD1, and the quality parameters in the fruits were not significantly affected. As a result of the improvement in tomato size, the DD4 distribution system economically offset the required higher initial expenditure compared with the DD1 system. Thermography was revealed to be a robust, simple, and quick tool for diagnosing the effect of salinity on transpiration.

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Carolina Aparicio, Miguel Urrestarazu and María del Pilar Cordovilla

Changes caused by NaCl salinity on growth, gas exchange, chemical composition, and oxidative stress symptoms have been measured in six olive (Olea europaea L.) cultivars (Casta Cabra, Cornicabra, Frantoio, Ocal, Picual, and Picudo) grown in nutrient solution in a growth chamber pot experiment. Six-month-old plants were transplanted to a sand–perlite culture and irrigated with half-strength Hoagland nutrient solution containing 0 and 200 mm NaCl for 12 weeks. Salinity significantly depressed growth and leaf gas exchange, but to a different degree in each cultivar, Picudo was the cultivar that showed less growth inhibition. The effectiveness of Na+ exclusion mechanism in the roots differed significantly among studied cultivars, working effectively in ‘Ocal’ and ‘Picudo’ and being less efficient in ‘Picual’. Furthermore, ‘Picudo’ showed the ability to maintain the concentration of leaf K+ under the stress condition. ‘Ocal’ accumulated phenolic compounds and did not reduce carotenoid or total thiol concentration under saline stress. Between the cultivars studied, ‘Picudo’ and ‘Ocal’ were the most tolerant.

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Miguel Urrestarazu, Cinthia Nájera and María del Mar Gea

Light-emitting diode (LED) lamps signify one of the most important advances in artificial lighting for horticulture over the last few decades. The objective of this study was to compare the cultivation of four horticultural plants using a conventional white LED tube (T0) light against one with a good spectral fit to the maximum photosynthetic response (T1) at two intensities. The experiment was carried out with two types of young lettuce, tomato, and bell pepper plants. In a controlled environment chamber, six and four lamps per square meter were used to achieve high (H) and low (L) intensity, respectively. We measured the lighting parameters illuminance (lux) and photosynthetic photon flux (PPF) intensity (µmol·m−2·s−1). The dry and fresh weight, leaf area (LA), and specific index were measured to gauge plant growth. The photosynthetic activity and energy efficiency (EE) were recorded for each species over 60 days of cultivation. The results clearly demonstrate that, compared with conventional LED lamps, the specific horticultural LED lamps with an improved light spectrum increased the EE of the evaluated vegetables by 26%. At both the studied light intensities, plant growth was clearly more closely linked to the spectral fit of the light to the maximum photosynthetic response recorded by McCree (1972) than to PPF or illuminance (lux). We therefore suggest that a specific, detailed spectral distribution study be conducted to predict the effect of the specific quantity and quality of light used in this study on a single parameter of plant growth.

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Miguel Urrestarazu, Juan E. Alvaro, Soraya Moreno and Gilda Carrasco

The aim of this study was to evaluate the remediation of ferric chlorosis using by iron (Fe)-o,o-EDDHA in fertigation of soilless crops compared with Fe-EDTA (ethylene diamine tetra acetic acid) and its effects on production. Two separate greenhouse experiments were conducted in slab or bag cultures using the tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill. cv. Daniela) and green bean crops (Phaseolus vulgaris L. cv. Maite) in Almería (southeast Spain). The crops were subjected to the following experimental setup: 1) At first phase, all plants were treated with a standard nutrient solution and Fe was supplied as Fe-EDTA. 2) No Fe was supplied in the nutrient solution to bean crops 46 days after transplanting. For tomato plants, this element was eliminated from the nutrient solution since 102 days after transplanting. In this phase, Fe-EDTA was supplied to the control plants (T1). This phase was ended when signs of ferric chlorosis appeared on the leaves. 3) The ferric chlorosis was remediated with either Fe-EDTA (T2) or Fe-o,o-EDDHA (T3). The T4 group did not receive any supplements. The total tomato and bean production was improved after the Fe deficiency had been corrected by either EDTA and Fe o,o-EDDHA supplements in the fertigation of these crops. The synthetic Fe o,o-EDDHA chelate alleviated Fe deficiency by increasing the amount of iron in the rhizosphere and its supply to the leaves and petioles. Consequently, the decrease in tomato and bean production resulting from ferric chlorosis could be prevented. As a conclusion, the remediation of ferric chlorosis through fertigation with Fe o,o-EDDHA is as effective as the use of traditional Fe-EDTA.

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Miguel Urrestarazu, Isidro Morales, Tommaso La Malfa, Ruben Checa, Anderson F. Wamser and Juan E. Álvaro

The management of water and nutrient ions, such as nitrate, has been studied extensively in recent decades. Increasingly efficient models have been developed for the use of water and nutrients through the automation of fertigation techniques. The application of a fertigation volume for a duration four times longer than applied on the control was evaluated. In Almería (Spain), one pepper crop and two tomato crops—with and without grafting—were grown between Oct. 2013 and June 2014 in a soilless system with a coir substrate. The effects on root growth, plant growth, production, and quality were measured. The following parameters for the fertigation of the nutrient solution and drainage were recorded: % drainage volume, electrical conductivity (EC) of the nutrient solution, pH, and concentration of nitrates and potassium. The absorption of potassium and nitrate, and the nitrate emissions of the drainage were estimated. The results showed an increase in the root volume and an improved distribution in the cultivation unit for the treatment application in the pepper crop. Slowing the applied fertigation improved the absorption of water and nitrates, and the production in the ungrafted tomato and pepper crops, while the grafted tomato crop was unaffected. Nitrate emissions were lower in the evaluated treatment of the pepper and ungrafted tomato crops. The fruit quality parameters were unaffected.

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Cristian Moya, Eduardo Oyanedel, Gabriela Verdugo, M. Fernanda Flores, Miguel Urrestarazu and Juan E. Álvaro

Greenhouse tomato production is shifting to meet emerging consumer needs. Increasing environmental concerns have pressured growers to supply high-quality vegetables using sustainable production methods. The utilization of adapting fertigation to production conditions and/or nutrient solutions of moderately high conductivity seems promising in providing high yields of superior quality while limiting the emission of nutrients to the environment in greenhouse tomato crops. A tomato crop was grown in soilless culture with various levels of electrical conductivity (EC), 2.2, 3.5, and 4.5 dS·m−1, adjusting the final nutrient concentration and maintaining nutritional balance. The effect of nutrient solutions with moderately high EC on fertigation parameters and the emission of nutrients to the environment, total crop productivity, distribution of fruit sizes, and dietary and organoleptic qualities were measured. Nutrient solutions of moderately high EC decreased total and commercial yield, with an average reduction from 5% to 19% and 3% to 22%, respectively. A considerable decrease in extra large and large fruits, with an average reduction from 69% to 42%, was also observed. Nonetheless, dietary-related metabolites were significantly increased at the highest EC values: lycopene (6.3%), ascorbic acid (8.8%), total phenolics content (8.3%), and total antioxidant activity (11.1%). EC values of 3.5 and 4.5 dS·m−1 are not widely used in commercial production but are frequently measured in drainage solutions in open hydroponic systems and discarded solutions in closed systems, mainly because of the use of poor-quality water and the accumulation of excess nutrients.

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Victor M. Gallegos-Cedillo, Juan E. Álvaro, Th. Capatos, T. Luan Hachmann, Gilda Carrasco and Miguel Urrestarazu

The effect of pH and silicon (Si) in the nutrient solution on the vegetative development of 2-year-old blueberry plants (Vaccinium corymbosum L. cv. Ventura) was studied. Two independent experiments were performed on coir fiber (CF) and sand as substrates. In experiment 1, Si was applied in the nutrient solution at a dose of 0.0, 0.3, 0.6, and 1.2 mm. In experiment 2, plants were treated with nutrient solution at pH 4.00, 4.75, 5.50, and 6.25, using two sources of acidification: nitric acid and citric acid. The parameters of plant growth, foliar surface, and stem biomass were measured. With the application of 1.2 mm Si to CF, plant height registered a significant increase of 8%, and shoot dry and fresh biomass increased by 21% and 25%, respectively. The results of experiment 1 indicated that the application of Si benefits the vegetative growth of blueberry plants in CF, but no effect was observed in the sand substrate. In the results of experiment 2, the pH level of 6.25 in CF decreased the dry weight of stems and leaves by 21% and 18%, respectively. A significant increase in the pH range of 4.00 to 5.50 was recorded in both the citric acid and nitric acid treatments, but these significant effects were not found in sand. Citric acid presented a similar behavior to nitric acid, which indicates that it can be a good source of acidification in organic and ecologically friendly crops.

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Tatiana Pagan Loeiro da Cunha-Chiamolera, Miguel Urrestarazu, Arthur Bernardes Cecílio Filho and Isidro Morales

An intercrop is studied here as a new way of farming in soilless systems within a protected environment. To estimate the efficiency of intercropping in this cultivation system, an experiment was conducted to evaluate the effect of the electrical conductivity (EC) of the nutrient solution (2.0, 2.5, and 3.0 dS·m−1) on lettuce and tomato plants and on the agronomic and economic feasibility of the intercrop compared with monoculture. The results indicated that a moderate increase in EC from 2.0 to 3.0 dS·m−1 did not exert any important effect on tomato plant production or quality but did cause a decrease in lettuce yield in both the first and second crops. Intercropping was only feasible for lettuce when the tomato and lettuce plants were transplanted on the same day. The highest tomato (G class) and lettuce yields were achieved at an EC of 2.5 dS·m−1; this condition resulted in the highest intercrop profitability (0.53 €·m−2 more) when compared with tomato monoculture.

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Roberto López-Pozos, Gabino Alberto Martínez-Gutiérrez, Rafael Pérez-Pacheco and Miguel Urrestarazu

Inadequate oxygenation of the nutrient solution (NS) in recirculating hydroponic systems leads to root hypoxia in several plants as a result of low oxygen solubility, and this is most notable in warm climates. Hypoxia affects crop nutrient and water absorption and results in reduced crop yield. However, increased air supply to the NS serves as a source of oxygen for the roots. To evaluate the incorporation of oxygen into the system, we varied the slope of 14-m long containers from 2% to 4% and applied zero, one, two, or three gaps of NS. The channel width measured 10 cm and was equidistant from the end points. The effect of the dissolved oxygen in the NS was measured by the production of a tomato cultivar. The oxygen dissolved in the NS was 5% greater in the channels with a 4% slope compared with those with a 2% slope. The channels that included the gaps incorporated a higher quantity of dissolved oxygen during cultivation. In the middle of the day, the available oxygen was the limiting factor for the yield. The best results were obtained with a steeper slope, and gaps also improved the tomato yield. More rapid changes in NS were associated with a higher quantity of dissolved oxygen.

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Fernando de la Riva, Pilar Carolina Mazuela, Juan Eugenio Álvaro and Miguel Urrestarazu

The effect of peracetic acid on the vase life and bud opening of cut flowers of Lisianthus was investigated. Eustoma grandiflorum is an attractive cut flower with a considerable length of vase life (usually weeks for freshly harvested stems). It is well known that the addition of sucrose into the vase solution increases significantly the longevity of cut flowers. Two different experiments of vase life were carried out. The first used cultivars of the Mariachi Series: Blue, Green, Blue Picotee, and Pink, whereas the second used Rosita White and Piccolo White 1. The control plants (T1) were supplied with tap water. Treatment 2 (T2) was similar to T1 with the addition of 3% sucrose. In the third (T3) and fourth (T4) treatments, sodium hypochlorite and a stabilized peracetic mixed system (PAA) were added, respectively. The number of flowers that opened from buds between cultivars was significantly different. With the addition of sucrose into the vase solution, a significant increase in longevity was recorded, which was also observed after the addition of both biocides to the respective treatments. This can be extended up to 15% by the addition of sucrose to the vase solution and up to 30% if PAA is incorporated into the vase solution. The results suggest that PAA can be a useful alternative to sodium hypochlorite for vase solutions because it is without the health drawbacks of trihalomethanes. The degradation of PAA is environmentally friendly, because it decomposes to form biodegradable acetic acid and eventually enters the environment as atomic oxygen.