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ISHS Acta Horticulturae 1142: VI Balkan Symposium on Vegetables and Potatoes

Nitrogen requirements at bulb initiation for production of intermediate-day onions

Authors:   R.M.A. Machado, D.R. Bryla
Keywords:   Allium cepa, crop growth, nitrogen uptake, soil nitrate
DOI:   10.17660/ActaHortic.2016.1142.11
The effect of nitrogen application on growth, nitrogen (N) uptake, yield, and quality of intermediate-day onion (Allium cepa 'Guimar') was evaluated in the field in southern Portugal. Plants were fertilized with 30 kg ha-1 N at transplanting, 10 kg ha-1 N at 29 days after transplanting (DAT) during early leaf growth, and with 0, 20, 40 and 60 kg ha-1 N at 51 DAT at the initiation of bulbing. The root system of plants in each treatment were concentrated in the top 0.1 m of soil and limited to 0.3 m depth but neither root length density nor rooting depth were affected by N application during later stages of bulb development. Leaf and bulb dry matter, on the other hand, increased linearly with N rate during bulb growth (85 DAT) and at harvest (114 DAT), respectively. Soil nitrate-N (NO3-N) at 0-0.3 m depth likewise increased linearly with N rate during bulb growth but declined from 15-30 mg kg-1 at bulbing to >10 mg kg-1 in each treatment by harvest. A substantial amount of N in the plants, which ranged from 302-525 mg, was taken up from the soil. Application of 60 kg ha-1 N resulted in luxury consumption. Yield (fresh bulb weight) increased from 0.19 kg plant-1 with no N at bulbing to as much as 0.28 kg plant-1 with 60 kg ha-1 N. Bulbs harvested from plants fertilized 40-60 kg ha-1 N averaged 8.2-8.5 cm in diameter, while those from plants with no N at bulbing averaged only 7.2 cm in diameter. Application of N fertilizer is thus recommended at bulbing to increase N uptake, yield, and bulb size of intermediate-day onions, particularly in dry Mediterranean climates where many onions are produced. Other components of quality, including neck diameter, bulb water content, total soluble solids, and juice pH, were not affect by N applied at bulbing.

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