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- Author or Editor: Yuncong C. Li x
A low-volume/high frequency (LVHF) soil moisture-based drip irrigation system was tested on a shallow sandy soil at a commercial tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum) farm in southern Florida. Six LVHF irrigation treatments were compared with the standard commercial practice on the farm (control), where a portable pump was used for manual drip irrigation twice each week. In the six LVHF treatments the system was continuously pressurized by means of an electrical pump and a pressure tank, and controlled by an irrigation timer set to irrigate a maximum of five times per day with the irrigation time (i.e., volume) set according to historical evapotranspiration (ET) demands in the area. Two treatments were based on timer schedules, one to supply 100% of the maximum recommended crop water needs in the area based on historical ET (ET-100%), and the other to supply 150% of those needs (ET-150%). The other four treatments were created by interfacing two types of soil moisture sensors (switching tensiometers and granular matrix sensors with control modules) set at two moisture points (wet = 10 kPa, optimal = 15 kPa) in a closed control loop with the irrigation timer programmed at the ET-100% schedule. Results showed that the six LVHF treatments reduced water use while not significantly affecting tomato yields. Switching tensiometers at the 15 kPa set point performed the best (up to 73% reduction in water use when compared to the control, 50% with respect to ET-100%). The results show that water use below historical ET levels can be obtained without sacrificing yield by keeping the root zone moisture at controlled levels with the soil-moisture based system. Routine maintenance was critical for reliable operation of the switching tensiometers. Granular matrix sensor based irrigation behaved erratically, and did not improve water savings compared to ET-100%, indicating that this system was not effective under the conditions of the area due to the sensor's slow response to frequent wetting-rewetting cycles and characteristics of the interface.
Fertilizer management is an essential step in the production process, as it allows the plant to use its productive capacity to the fullest extent possible. Researchers have tested maximum nutrient use with reduced losses to the environment aiming to increase productivity with fewer environmental impacts. This study compared the effects of controlled-release fertilizers (CRFs) with water-soluble fertilizer (WSF) and clear water (control) on the growth and nutrient uptake of croton (Codiaeum variegatum L.) and nitrogen leaching. The experiment was conducted with three replications and six treatments: two rates (1.5 g and 3.0 g per liter of substrate) of two CRFs [Osmocote Plus (15% N, 3.93% P, and 9.96% K) and Basacote (15% N, 3.49% P, and 9.96% K)], WSF, and clean water as control. All CRFs were applied before planting and WSF was supplied as nutrient solution through automated moisture sensor activated irrigation system. Plant growth (number of leaves, leaf area, stem height, root volume, and shoot and root dry weights) and total nutrient contents in the leaf tissue were evaluated every 30 days. Electrical conductivity (EC), pH, nitrate, ammonium, and total nitrogen contents were measured in the leached solution. Indeed, results showed that CRFs at a low rate provided similar development and quality of croton plants compared with WSF. Plant growth indicators were similar until 90 days after transplanting (DAT). After that, at 150 DAT, the highest values to number of leaves and leaf area occurred with WSF and with the lowest CRF rate as compared with the other treatments and control. The highest root volume was found with the WSF, which resulted in larger roots compared with the other treatments. These results showed WSF can be replaced by CRFs at low rates on croton growth. Moreover, according to the visual scale, the best treatments were WSF and Basacote at the low rate, where plants were bright, with multicolored leaves with prominent orange shades. However, CRFs maintained pH and EC within the recommended range for the growth of croton and reduced the nitrogen leaching from the pots.
Preplant soil testing is essential for optimizing phosphorus (P) fertilization and minimizing the potential for soil P losses. Currently, there is no effective soil P extractant for calcareous soils in Florida. This study was conducted to compare Mehlich-3, ammonium bicarbonate–diethylenetriaminepentaacetic acid (AB-DTPA), and Olsen for evaluating P availability, estimating soil-test P (STP) critical levels, and calibrating P application rates for fresh-market tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) production in a calcareous soil. Tomatoes were grown during Winter 2014 and 2015 with P application rates of 0, 29, 49, 78, 98, and 118 kg·ha‒1 P. Water-extractable P (water-P) and dissolved reactive P (DRP) in leachate were used to determine the STP change point of leaching potential. Results showed the greatest correlation occurred between Mehlich-3 and Olsen of the three STP extractants. For Mehlich-3-P, the medium STP level (producing 75% to 90% relative yield) was predicted from 76 to 89 mg·kg‒1 and the change point was predicted at 88 or 104 mg·kg‒1 by split-line models. The P requirement was calculated from 52 to 112 kg·ha‒1 when Mehlich-3-P was rated as low level (producing 50% to 75% relative yield), which was from 42 to 76 mg·kg‒1. The multiple regression models using AB-DTPA-P and Olsen-P could not predict either the medium STP level or the practical P application rates for the low level. Consequently, based on 2 years of data, Mehlich-3 was the most effective extractant for estimating soil P availability and calibrating P rates in calcareous soils with an extremely high calcium carbonate (CaCO3) content.
Consumer demand for fresh market organic produce combined with the increasing market share of ready-to-eat products indicates the potential for expansion of an organic culinary herb market. Barriers to organic herb greenhouse production are high as a result of lack of available technical information and the low number of producers experienced in this area. There is a critical need for information and technologies to improve the management of organic soil and fertilizer amendments to optimize crop yields and quality, manage production costs, and minimize the risk from groundwater nitrogen (N) contamination. Because of limited information specific to organic culinary herb production, literature on organic vegetable transplants and conventional basil (Ocimum basilicum) production was also considered in this review. Managing N for organic crops is problematic as a result of the challenge of synchronizing mineralization from organic fertilizer sources with crop N demand. A combination of materials, including locally formulated composts, supplemented with standardized commercially formulated fertilizer products is one method to ensure crops have access to mineral N throughout their development. In experimental greenhouse systems, local raw materials are frequently used as media amendments to satisfy partial or complete crop fertility requirements. This makes comparisons among experiments difficult as a result of the wide variety of raw materials used and the frequent interactions of fertilizer source and planting media on nutrient availability. Nitrogen mineralization rates are also influenced by additional factors such as the environmental conditions in the greenhouse and physical and chemical properties of the media and fertilizer. Despite the variability within and among experimental trials, yields and quality of organically grown crops are frequently similar to, and occasionally better than, conventionally grown crops.