Nitrogen is required by plants in large quantities and its deficiency is mostly related to reduction in crop production. A study was conducted to assess the importance of nitrogen in tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) transplant production. Transplants were propagated at 0, 30, 60, 90, and 120 mg∙L-1 N applied as NH4NO3 while 30 mg∙L-1 P applied as NaH2PO4 and 30 mg∙L-1 K as KCl were used. Fergitation was done by floating cavity trays in nutrient solution until the medium reached field capacity. The experiment was arranged in a randomized complete block design (RCBD) with four replications. Sampling was initiated at 21 days after sowing and was done weekly until the transplants were ready for transplanting (when transplants could be pulled out of the cavity easily without breaking) at 42 days after sowing.
Nitrogen supply had a pronounce influence on the transplant root and shoot growth. Observations throughout the experiment indicated that increased nitrogen application favoured shoot growth which is an indication that most of the assimilates were partitioned to shoots rather than to roots. Nitrogen application of 120 mg∙L-1increased fresh shoot mass and subsequently enhanced dry shoot mass. As nitrogen was increased from 0 to 120 mg∙L-1, it further promoted relative growth rate, specific leaf area, leaf mass ratio, leaf area ratio, plant chlorophyll content, leaf tissue nitrogen and improved the pulling success. At 42 days after sowing, a quality transplant that was produced with 90 mg∙L-1 N, had a root to shoot ratio of 0.16, leaf mass ratio of 0.86, root mass ratio of 0.13, leaf area of 594 cm2, plant chlorophyll content of 33, leaf tissue nitrogen of 32 g∙kg-1, specific leaf area of 194 cm2∙mg-1, leaf area ratio of 167.7 cm2∙mg-1, relative growth ratio of 0.31 cm∙mg-1∙wk-1 and 100% pulling success. This transplant proved to be ideal for the production of tomato as compared to other treatment combinations that were employed.
Another glasshouse experiment was conducted to determine the influence of electrical conductivity (EC) and or nutrient solution composition on growth, yield and quality parameters in tomato. The pots were arranged in a randomized complete block design (RCBD). One plant per pot represented an experimental unit. Four EC treatments were used that consisted of 1.12, 2.24, 4.48 and 6.72 mS∙cm-1. Each treatment was replicated six times. Distilled water was used for irrigation water to maintain the required pH, which was 5.5 to 6.2 throughout the duration of the study, and cocopeat was used as substrate.
Salinity inhibited growth (shoot length) and yield (average fruit mass, fruit diameter and fruit circumference) at the highest concentration of 6.72 mS∙cm-1. However, it did not significantly affect number of trusses, number of fruits and stem diameter, rather tomato quality was improved in terms of total soluble solids. Although tomato fruits grown at 6.72 mS∙cm-1 were relatively smaller than fruits grown at 1.12, 2.24 and 4.48 mS∙cm-1 treatments respectively, they had higher acidity, increased soluble solids and higher sugar content which are all qualities required by the tomato processing industry. Increasing the concentration of the solution from 1.12 to 6.72 mS∙cm-1 increased the %Brix from 3.9 to 6.1% while titratable acidity was also increased from 3.3 to 5.7%, respectively. The incidents of blossom end rot were higher (6.3%) at concentration of 6.72 mS∙cm-1 as compared to 1.12 mS∙cm-1 concentration, which was 0.5%.
Dissertation (MScAgric)--University of Pretoria, 2015.