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- Author or Editor: Nathan O. Nelson x
Organically produced fruit and vegetables are among the fastest growing agricultural markets. With greater demand for organically grown produce, more farmers are considering organic production options. Furthermore, there is an increasing interest in maintaining optimal production in an organic system, which involves appropriate nutrient management. The objectives of this review were to summarize the current state of our knowledge concerning effects of organic production systems on phosphorus (P) availability, describe P availability in common organically accepted P sources, and review best management practices that can reduce environmental risks associated with P management in organic systems. Organic production systems seek to improve soil organic matter and biological diversity, which may impact P cycling and P uptake by crops. Increases in organic matter will be accompanied by an increase in the organic P pool. Furthermore, management of cover crops and potentially enhanced arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi colonization from organic production practices can increase the availability of soil P pool (both organic and inorganic) by stimulating microbial activity and release of root exudates. This can help compensate for low soil P, but will not supersede the need to replace P removed by the harvested crop. Phosphorus fertilization in organic production systems entails balancing the P inputs with crop removal through selection and management of both nitrogen (N) and P inputs. Organic production systems that rely on manure or composts for meeting crop N demand will likely have a P surplus; therefore, P deficiencies will not be an issue. Systems using other N sources may have a P deficit, therefore requiring P supplementation for optimal plant growth. In such situations, maintenance P applications equal to crop removal should be made based on soil test recommendations. Primary organically approved P sources are phosphate rock (PR), manure, and compost. Phosphate rock is most effective at supplying P in soils with low pH (less than 5.5) and low calcium concentrations. Phosphate rock applications made to soils with pH greater than 5.5 may not be effective because of reduced PR solubility. Manure- and compost-based P has high plant availability, ranging from 70% to 100% available. Use of manures and composts requires extra considerations to reduce the risk of P loss from P sources to surface waters. Best management practices (BMPs) for reducing source P losses are incorporation of the manures or composts and timing applications to correspond to periods of low runoff risk based on climatic conditions. Organic production systems that use manures and composts as their primary N source should focus on minimizing P buildup in the soils and use of management practices that reduce the risks of P loss to surface waters. Evaluation of P loss risk with a P index will assist in identification of soil and management factors likely to contribute to high P loss as well as BMPs that can decrease P loss risks. BMPs should focus on controlling both particulate and dissolved P losses.
Greenhouse experiments were conducted to determine the response of Brassica oleracea L., pac choi to fertilizer rates and sources and to establish optimal soluble nitrogen (N) application rates and nitrate meter sufficiency ranges. Conventional soluble fertilizer was formulated from inorganic salts with a 4:1 NO3-N:NH4-N ratio. Phosphorus (P) was held at 1.72 mm and potassium (K) at 0.83 mm for all treatment levels. The organic soluble fertilizer, fish hydrolyzate (2N–1.72P–0.83K), was diluted to provide the same N levels as with conventional treatments. Both fertilizers were applied at N rates of 0, 32, 75, 150, 225, 300, and 450 mg·L−1. Seedlings were transplanted and fertilizer application began at 18 days. Plants were harvested at 7 weeks (5 weeks post-transplanting) after receiving 15 fertilizer applications during production. Samples of the most recently matured leaves were harvested weekly and analyzed for petiole sap NO3-N and leaf blade total N concentration. Leaf count, leaf length, and chlorophyll content were also measured weekly. Fresh and dry weights were determined on whole shoots and roots. Optimum yield was achieved at the 150-mg·L−1 fertility rate with both conventional and organic fertilizers. Field and high tunnel experiments were conducted to validate the sufficiency ranges obtained from the greenhouse studies. Sufficiency levels of NO3-N for pac choi petiole sap during Weeks 2 to 3 of production were 800 to 1500 mg·L−1 and then dropped to 600 to 1000 mg·L−1 during Weeks 4 through harvest for both conventional and organic fertilizers sources. Total N in leaf tissue was less responsive to fertilizer rate effects than petiole sap NO3-N. Chlorophyll content was not useful in evaluating pac choi N status. These guidelines will provide farmers with information for leaf petiole sap NO3-N to guide in-season N applications.
Two greenhouse studies were conducted to examine effects of nitrogen source on primary and secondary metabolism of pac choi (Brassica rapa L. subsp. chinensis cv. Mei Qing Choi) and diamondback moth (Plutella xylostella L.) consumption, development, survival, and body weight. Applications of a liquid organic source of nitrogen (fish hydrolysate fertilizer) were compared with a conventional fertilizer to determine whether nitrogen source directly impacts pac choi chemistry (elemental composition and phenolics) and biomass and indirectly affects diamondback moth fitness parameters. There was no significant effect of fertility treatment on pac choi chemistry or biomass with the exception of percent leaf phosphorus, which was significantly higher in the conventional fertility treatment, and p-coumarin, which was significantly higher in the organic fertility treatment. Diamondback moth also affected plant chemistry. Both calcium (Ca) and magnesium (Mg) were significantly higher in plants infested with larvae compared with uninfested plants. Fertilizer affected diamondback moth fitness with percent survival and cohort development significantly reduced on pac choi associated with the organic fertilizer. However, pac choi receiving the organic treatment was similar in regard to primary nutrients and secondary compounds compared with plants that received a conventional fertilizer.