Tomato yield, biomass accumulation, root distribution and irrigation water use efficiency on a sandy soil, as affected by nitrogen rate and irrigation scheduling

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

198 Citations (Scopus)


Florida is the largest producer of fresh-market tomatoes in the United States. Production areas are typically intensively managed with high inputs of fertilizer and irrigation. The objectives of this 3-year field study were to evaluate the interaction between N-fertilizer rates and irrigation scheduling on yield, irrigation water use efficiency (iWUE) and root distribution of tomato cultivated in a plastic mulched/drip irrigated production systems. Experimental treatments included three irrigation scheduling regimes and three N-rates (176, 220 and 230 kg ha(-1)). Irrigation treatments included were: (1) SUR (surface drip irrigation) both irrigation and fertigation line placed right underneath the plastic mulch; (2) SDI (subsurface drip irrigation) where the irrigation line was placed 0.15 m below the fertigation line which was located on top of the bed; and (3)TIME (conventional control) with irrigation and fertigation lines placed as in SUR and irrigation being applied once a day. Except for the "TIME" treatment all irrigation treatments were controlled by soil moisture sensor (SMS)-based irrigation set at 10% volumetric water content which was allotted five irrigation windows daily and bypassed events if the soil water content exceeded the established threshold. Average marketable fruit yields were 28,56 and 79 Mg ha(-1) foryears 1-3, respectively. The SUR treatment required 15-51% less irrigation water when compared to TIME treatments, while the reductions in irrigation water use for SDI were 7-29%. Tomato yield was 11-80% higher for the SUR and SDI treatments than TIME where as N-rate did not affect yield. Root concentration was greatest in the vicinity of the irrigation and fertigation drip lines for all irrigation treatments. At the beginning of reproductive phase about 70-75% of the total root length density (RLD) was concentrated in the 015 cm soil layer while 15-20% of the roots were found in the 15-30 cm layer. Corresponding RLD distribution values during the reproductive phase were 68% and 22%, respectively. Root distribution in the soil profile thus appears to be mainly driven by development stage, soil moisture and nutrient availability. It is concluded that use of SDI and SMS-based systems consistently increased tomato yields while greatly improving irrigation water use efficiency and thereby reduced both irrigation water use and potential N leaching.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-34
JournalAgricultural Water Management
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • subsurface drip irrigation
  • field-grown tomato
  • fruit-quality
  • processing tomato
  • staked tomatoes
  • plastic mulch
  • management
  • stress
  • crops


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