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Oscar L. Vargas and David R. Bryla

Fertigation with liquid sources of nitrogen (N) fertilizers, including ammonium sulfate and urea, were compared with granular applications of the fertilizers in northern highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum L. ‘Bluecrop’) during the first 5 years of fruit production (2008–12). The planting was established in Apr. 2006 at a field site located in western Oregon. The plants were grown on raised beds and mulched every 2 years with sawdust. Liquid fertilizers were injected through a drip system in equal weekly applications from mid-April to early August. Granular fertilizers were applied on each side of the plants, in three split applications from mid-April to mid-June, and washed into the soil using microsprinklers. Each fertilizer was applied at three N rates, which were increased each year as the plants matured (63 to 93, 133 to 187, and 200 to 280 kg·ha−1 N) and compared with non-fertilized treatments (0 kg·ha−1 N). Canopy cover, which was measured in 2008 only, and fresh pruning weight were greater with fertigation than with granular fertilizer and often increased with N rate when the plants were fertigated but decreased at the highest rate when granular fertilizer was applied. Yield also increased with N fertilizer and was 12% to 40% greater with fertigation than with granular fertilizer each year as well as 17% greater with ammonium sulfate than with urea in 2011. The response of berry weight to the treatments was variable but decreased with higher N rates during the first 3 years of fruit production. Leaf N concentration was greater with fertigation in 4 of 5 years and averaged 1.68% with fertigation and 1.61% with granular fertilizer. Leaf N was also often greater with ammonium sulfate than with urea and increased as more N was applied. Soil pH declined with increasing N rates and was lower with granular fertilizer than with fertigation during the first 3 years of fruit production and lower with ammonium sulfate than with urea in every year but 2010. Soil electrical conductivity (EC) was less than 1 dS·m−1 in each treatment but was an average of two to three times greater with granular fertilizer than with fertigation and 1.4 to 1.8 times greater with ammonium sulfate than with urea. Overall, total yield averaged 32 to 63 t·ha−1 in each treatment over the first 5 years of fruit production and was greatest when plants were fertigated with ammonium sulfate or urea at rates of at least 63 to 93 kg·ha−1 N per year.

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Oscar L. Vargas, David R. Bryla, Jerry E. Weiland, Bernadine C. Strik and Luna Sun

The use of conventional drip and alternative micro irrigation systems were evaluated for 3 years in six newly planted cultivars (Earliblue, Duke, Draper, Bluecrop, Elliott, and Aurora) of northern highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum L.). The drip system included two lines of tubing on each side of the row with in-line drip emitters at every 0.45 m. The alternative systems included geotextile tape and microsprinklers. The geotextile tape was placed alongside the plants and dispersed water and nutrients over the entire length. Microsprinklers were installed between every other plant at a height of 1.2 m. Nitrogen was applied by fertigation at annual rates of 100 and 200 kg·ha−1 N by drip, 200 kg·ha−1 N by geotextile tape, and 280 kg·ha−1 N by microsprinklers. By the end of the first season, plant size, in terms of canopy cover, was greatest with geotextile tape, on average, and lowest with microsprinklers or drip at the lower N rate. The following year, canopy cover was similar with geotextile tape and drip at the higher N rate in each cultivar, and was lowest with microsprinklers in all but ‘Draper’. In most of the cultivars, geotextile tape and drip at the higher N rate resulted in greater leaf N concentrations than microsprinklers or drip at the lower N rate, particularly during the first year after planting. By the third year, yield averaged 3.1–9.1 t·ha−1 among the cultivars, but was similar with geotextile tape and drip at either N rate, and was only lower with microsprinklers. Overall, drip was more cost effective than geotextile tape, and fertigation with 100 kg·ha−1 N by drip was sufficient to maximize early fruit production in each cultivar. Microsprinklers were less effective by comparison and resulted in white salt deposits on the fruit.