Soil solution monitoring has been suggested as an appropriate procedure to optimize fertigation timing and application rate. Soil solution NO3-N concentrations were measured for two growing seasons on a sandy loam soil when 5, 20 or 30 g N per season per tree were fertigated daily to apples as calcium nitrate from mid May-mid July. Soil solution NO3-N concentrations at 30 cm depth changed rapidly in response to both the initiation and cessation of fertigation, with values ranging from 10-20 ppm, 60-100 ppm and 100-200 ppm for the low to high treatments respectively. The rapid response to NO,-fertilizers implied a potential to control closely the timing of N fertilizer applications. In another experiment, `Empire' apple trees were fertigated 5 times/week from May 31 to August 9 with 30 g N/tree applied either as ammonium sulphate or as calcium nitrate. With calcium nitrate as the N source, NO3-N rapidly increased when fertigation was initiated and fell when fertigation ended. In contrast, with ammonium sulphate, NO3-N was low for about 30 days after initiation of fertigation, then increased to 100 ppm and remained elevated for 40-50 days after fertigation ended. The potential control of N nutrition appeared to be less exact when fertigating NH4-N.
Gerry H. Neilsen, Denise Neilsen, Peter Parchomchuk, and Eugene Hogue
Denise Neilsen, Gerry H. Neilsen, Peter Parchomchuk, and Eugene J. Hogue
Direct application of fertilizers in irrigation water (fertigation) has been advocated as an efficient method of fertilizing fruit trees. However, more information is needed on the relationship between irrigation and N inputs in order to target fertigation to meet plant demands. Soil solution NO3-N concentration was measured at three sites in response to the method of fertilizer application in which 25 g N/tree per year was either spring-broadcast with sprinkler irrigation or fertigated at 8 weekly intervals through drip irrigation; the amount of irrigation water in which 50 g N/tree per year was given in 63 daily fertigations with either 4 or 8 liters of water/day for two soil types and the concentration of fertigated N in which either 75 or 150 ppm NO3-N was given in 63 daily fertigations. Soil solution NO3-N concentration decreased rapidly for broadcast fertilizer with sprinkler irrigation and was lower than for weekly fertigation with drip irrigation. Doubling the amount of irrigation water effectively halved the soil solution NO3-N concentration in both the silt loam and loamy sand soils, although concentrations were higher in the silt loam soil. Movement of applied N below the root zone was halted for the silt loam soil by mid-summer with the lower amount of irrigation water, but was only delayed in the loamy sand soil. Doubling the average concentration of N in the irrigation water resulted in a doubling of the concentration of NO3-N in the root zone. A simple model was devised to predict the soil solution NO3-N concentration based on N and water inputs and fitted to measured values for daily and weekly fertigation.
Gerry Neilsen, Peter Parchomchuk, Michael Meheriuk, and Denise Neilsen
Various schedules of 40 g N and 17.5 g P/tree per year were applied with irrigation water (fertigation) to `Summerland McIntosh' apple (Malus ×domestica Borkh.) trees on M.9 rootstock commencing the year of planting. Leaf K concentrations averaged 0.82% dry mass, indicating deficiency, by the third growing season. This coincided with extractable soil K concentrations of 50-60 μg·g-1 soil in a narrow volume of the coarse-textured soil located within 0.3 m of the emitters. The decline in leaf K concentration was reversed and fruit K concentration increased by additions of K at 15-30 g/tree applied either as granular KCl directly beneath the emitters in spring or as KCl applied as a fertigant in the irrigation water. K-fertilization increased fruit red color, size, and titratable acidity only when leaf K concentration was <1%. Fruit Ca concentration and incidence of bitter pit or coreflush were unaffected by K application. NPK-fertigation commencing upon tree establishment is recommended for high-density apple orchards planted on similar coarse-textured soils.
Denise Neilsen, Eugene J. Hogue, Gerald H. Neilsen, and Peter Parchomchuk
Four apple (Malus domestica Borkh) cultivars (`Fuji', `Spartan', `Fiesta', and `Gala') on Malling 9 (M.9) rootstock were grown in the field with three N rates (5, 20, and 35 g N/tree per year), supplied as Ca(NO3)2, and fertigated daily for 9 weeks. In the second year, leaf SPAD readings (chlorophyll readings obtained with the Minolta-502 SPAD meter) increased over the growing season for all cultivars, and leaf N decreased. Leaf SPAD and leaf N measurements increased in response to N fertigation rate at all sampling times. `Gala' consistently had lower SPAD readings than the other cultivars, and, with the exception of the first sampling time, `Fuji' had higher and `Fiesta' lower leaf N concentrations than other cultivars. There were strong relationships between leaf N concentration and SPAD readings for all cultivars until mid-July (r 2 = 0.44 to 0.89), but not later in the growing season. Differences in SPAD readings and leaf N concentration due to cultivar and over time were as great as those due to N treatments, indicating that in the future, determination of critical SPAD values for apple leaves must be standardized for cultivar and sampling time. SPAD readings could be used to assess the need for N early in the growing season in fertigated orchards where rapid changes in nutrition programs can be undertaken readily.