Nitrogen Fertigation Concentration and Timing of Application Affect Nitrogen Nutrition, Yield, Firmness, and Color of Apples Grown at High Density.

Neilsen, G.H., Neilsen, D., and Herbert, L.C. (2009). "Nitrogen Fertigation Concentration and Timing of Application Affect Nitrogen Nutrition, Yield, Firmness, and Color of Apples Grown at High Density.", HortScience, 44(5), pp. 1425-1431.

Abstract

A randomized complete block, split-plot experiment with six replicates was established and maintained for the first six fruiting seasons (1999 to 2004) in a high-density apple [Malus sylvestris (L.) Mill var. domestica (Borkh.) Mansf.] orchard on M.9 rootstock planted in Apr. 1998. This report assesses responses to six main-plot fertigation treatments, each containing three tree subplots of five different cultivars (Ambrosia, Cameo, Fuji, Gala, and Silken). Fertigation treatments were a factorial combination of two nitrogen (N) rates and three N application timings. N was applied at low (28 mg N/L) or high (168 mg N/L) concentrations daily at 0 to 4, 4 to 8, or 8 to 12 weeks after full bloom (wafb). Under greater N inputs, all cultivars had increased midsummer leaf and harvested fruit N concentrations, decreased fruit firmness, and in heavy crop years, decreased percent red color. Annual yield of all cultivars was significantly increased by N rate in a single year, but their cumulative yields were not different between treatments as a result of rate or timing. Altering the timing of N application within 12 wafb only affected leaf and fruit tissue N concentration. Leaf N was higher after 4 weeks of fertigation any time, although concentrations declined over the growing season, reaching minimum values around harvest. Fruit N was increased by fertigation 4 to 12 wafb. Yield, fruit firmness, and color were unaffected by fertigation timing. Critical fruit quality issues for ‘Gala’ and ‘Silken’ were small fruit size, for Ambrosia low fruit numbers, and for ‘Cameo’ soft fruit. ‘Fuji’, which achieved high yield and leaf N concentration and firm fruit, had poor red color regardless of N treatments.

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