High fertigation frequency: The effects on uptake of nutrients, water and plant growth

A. Silber*, G. Xu, I. Levkovitch, S. Soriano, A. Bilu, R. Wallach

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

140 Scopus citations

Abstract

The objective of the present research was to explore the effects of combined irrigation and fertilization (fertigation) frequency on growth, yield and uptake of water and nutritional elements by plants. Lettuce (Lactuca sativa L., cv. Iceberg) was used as the model plant. Two experiments were conducted in a screen-house: compound fertilizer at a constant N:P:K ratio at different concentrations was used in the first, while in the second the concentration of P varied solely while the concentration of the other nutritional elements was kept constant. The lettuce was planted in pots filled with perlite and irrigated daily with a constant volume of nutrient solution at different frequencies. The major finding in the two experiments was that high fertigation frequency induced a significant increase in yield, mainly at low nutrients concentration level. Yield improvement was primarily related to enhancement of nutrient uptake, especially P. It was suggested that the yield reduction obtained at low frequency resulted from nutrient deficiency, rather than water shortage, and that high irrigation frequency can compensate for nutrient deficiency. Frequent fertigation improved the uptake of nutrients through two main mechanisms: continuous replenishment of nutrients in the depletion zone at the vicinity of root interface and enhanced transport of dissolved nutrients by mass flow, due to the higher averaged water content in the medium. As such, an increase in fertigation frequency enables to reduce the concentrations of immobile elements such as P, K and trace metals in irrigation water, and to lessen the environment pollution by discharge.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)467-477
Number of pages11
JournalPlant and Soil
Volume253
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2003

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors are grateful to the anonymous reviewers for the critical reading of the manuscript and their constructive comments. This paper is contribution No. 625/02 of the Agricultural Research Organization of the Volcani Center. This work was supported by the Israeli Agricultural Science Foundation. We thank I. Poliker-Eilam and T. Markovich for their technical assistance during the experiment, and S. Cohen and Li Yan for their assistance in measuring leaf stomatal conductivity.

Keywords

  • Depletion zone
  • Hydraulic conductivity
  • Lettuce
  • Nutrient acquisition
  • Phosphorus
  • Tensiometers

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