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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Corvallis, Oregon » Horticultural Crops Research Unit » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #221182

Title: Nitrogen Requirements for Growth and Early Fruit Development of Drip-Irrigated Processing Tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) in Portugal

item Bryla, David
item SENA, A

Submitted to: Journal of Food Agriculture and Environment
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/31/2008
Publication Date: 10/13/2008
Citation: Machado, R., Bryla, D.R., Verissimo, M.L., Sena, A.M., Oliverira, M. 2008. Nitrogen requirements for growth and early fruit development of drip-irrigated processing tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) in Portugal. Journal of Food Agriculture and Environment. 6(3&4):215-218.

Interpretive Summary: Many agricultural regions in the world have high amounts of N in the groundwater due to over application and leaching of fertilizers. In some areas, these nitrogen levels reach 10-50 ppm or more. Nitrogen leaching (mostly as nitrate) is especially prominent during establishment when root systems are small and unable to acquire much nitrogen. A study was done to determine the nitrogen requirements during establishment of processing tomato. We found that <10 ppm nitrogen in the irrigation water (whether available naturally or added) was sufficient for the young tomato plants between planting and fruit set. This indicates that nitrogen fertilizer may not be necessary for establishing processing tomatoes when nitrogen in the groundwater is already high. However, additional fertilizer application increased nitrogen storage in the plant, which may prove beneficial later on during fruit production.

Technical Abstract: The effect of continuous application of small quantities of nitrogen (N) in irrigation water and N applied as starter on growth and development of processing tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.), from transplanting to beginning of fruit set, was studied in two experiments: a pot experiment and a field trial. The pots experiment was carried out with eight treatments, including two soil types and four levels of N application (13.2, 18.2, 28.2 and 48.2 mg l-1 N). The field trial consisted of four N treatments, including a control with only 6.4 mg l-1 N available naturally in the irrigation water, 15 kg ha-1 N applied at pre-plant, 15 kg ha-1 N applied at pre-plant plus 20 mg N l-1 applied continuously during irrigation, and 15 kg ha-1 N applied preplanting plus 40 mg N l-1 applied continuously during irrigation. Plant growth was significantly affected by soil type and N level under controlled conditions, increasing linearly in Luvissol (sandy loam) and Regossol (silty clay loam) soil at an average rate of 0.52 and 0.64 g dry weight per mg N in the irrigation water, respectively. However, under field conditions, additional N, whether added at pre-plant or continuously during irrigation, had no effect on any measure of aboveground plant growth, including leaf area, plant dry weight, or early fruit production, but reduced root length density below ground. Overall, N in the irrigation water was sufficient for the young tomato plants between planting and fruit set, and adding more N at pre-plant or by fertigation only resulted in luxury N consumption.