Tomato nitrogen accumulation and fertilizer use efficiency on a sandy soil, as affected by nitrogen rate and irrigation scheduling

L. Zotarelli, M.D. Dukes, J.M.S. Scholberg, R. Munoz-Carpena, J. Icerman

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92 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Tomato production systems in Florida are typically intensively managed with high inputs of fertilizer and irrigation and on sandy soils with low inherent water and nutrient retention capacities; potential nutrient leaching losses undermine the sustainability of such systems. The objectives of this 3-year field study were to evaluate the interaction between N-fertilizer rates and irrigation scheduling on crop N and P accumulation, N-fertilizer use efficiency (NUE) and NO3-N leaching of tomato cultivated in a plastic mulched/drip irrigated production system in sandy soils. Experimental treatments were a factorial combination of three irrigation scheduling regimes and three N-rates (176, 220, and 330 kg ha(-1)). Irrigation treatments included were: (1) surface drip irrigation (SUR) both the irrigation and fertigation line placed underneath the plastic mulch; (2) subsurface drip irrigation (SDI) where the irrigation drip was placed 0.15 m below the fertigation line which was located on top of the bed; and (3) TIME (conventional control) with the irrigation and fertigation lines placed as in SUR and irrigation applied once a day. Except for the TIME treatment all irrigation treatments were soil moisture sensor (SMS)based with irrigation occurring at 10% volumetric water content. Five irrigation windows were scheduled daily and events were bypassed if the soil water content exceeded the established threshold. The use of SMS-based irrigation systems significantly reduced irrigation water use, volume percolated, and nitrate leaching. Based on soil electrical conductivity (EC) readings, there was no interaction between irrigation and N-rate treatments on the movement of fertilizer solutes. Total plant N accumulation for SUR and SDI was 12-37% higher than TIME. Plant P accumulation was not affected by either irrigation or N-rate treatments. The nitrogen use efficiency for SUR and SDI was on the order of 37-45%, 56-61%, and 61-68% for 2005, 2006 and 2007, respectively and significantly higher than for the conventional control system (TIME). Moreover, at the intermediate N-rate SUR and SDI systems reduced NO3-N leaching to 5 and 35 kg ha(-1), while at the highest N-rate corresponding values were 7 and 56 kg N ha(-1). Use of N application rates above 220 kg ha(-1) did not result in fruit and/or shoot biomass nor N accumulation benefits, but substantially increased NO3-N leaching for the control treatment, as detected by EC monitoring and by the lysimeters. It is concluded that appropriate use of SDI and/or sensor-based irrigation systems can sustain high yields while reducing irrigation application as well as reducing NO3-N leaching in low water holding capacity soils.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1247-1258
JournalAgricultural Water Management
Volume96
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2009

Keywords

  • water-use efficiency
  • drip irrigation
  • electrical-conductivity
  • processing tomato
  • nitrate
  • growth
  • root
  • fertigation
  • system
  • yield

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