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  • Author or Editor: Yilin Zhu x
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Sulfur (S) is an essential plant nutrient that regulates plant growth and metabolism. However, S is often absent from certain one-bag hydroponic fertilizers designed to provide a complete and balanced mixture of nutrients. We quantified the effects of S supplementation on the growth, morphology, and photosynthesis of lettuce grown in a deep-water culture hydroponic system. Two lettuce (Lactuca sativa) cultivars, green butterhead Rex and red oakleaf Rouxai, were grown using a prepackaged fertilizer specially formulated for reverse osmosis (RO) and other low-alkalinity water sources. The base nutrient solution was mixed using Jack’s FeED 12–4–16 fertilizer and RO water at a nitrogen concentration of 100 mg⋅L−1 (control). Three S supplementation treatments were implemented over a 4-week production period: 10 mg⋅L−1 supplemental S (provided using MgSO4); 20 mg⋅L−1 supplemental S (MgSO4); and a treatment using H2SO4 (instead of nitric acid) for pH adjustment. In both lettuce cultivars, shoot fresh and dry mass, total leaf area, leaf photosynthetic rate, total chlorophyll content, and leaf S concentration with all three S supplementation treatments increased significantly compared with those of the control. In contrast, the ratio of shoot dry mass to fresh mass, root dry mass, and percentage of root dry mass (i.e., root dry mass/total shoot and root mass) were significantly higher with the control treatment. Notably, ‘Rouxai’ lettuce grown in the control treatment had intense red coloration with a 216.6% to 288.9% increase in the anthocyanin index. There were no statistical differences in any of the growth and morphological parameters among the three S supplementation treatments. Overall, we observed significantly enhanced lettuce growth and photosynthetic performance with S supplementation, resulting in a 144.0% to 215.9% increase in shoot fresh mass in the two cultivars compared with the control. Thus, we recommend that at least 10 mg⋅L−1 of S should be supplemented when growing lettuce hydroponically to ensure optimal plant growth, especially when S is absent or low in the fertilizer and water source.

Open Access