|Authors: ||J.M. Monaghan, C.R. Rahn, H.W. Hilton, M. Wood|
|Keywords: ||fertigation, Lactuca sativa, nutrient efficiency, water efficiency, shelf life|
Drip-based fertigation may improve the application efficiency of water and nutrients while maintaining or improving marketable yield and quality at harvest and post-harvest.
Two plantings of lettuce (Lactuca sativa) were grown in the UK, with six N treatments and two methods of irrigation and N application.
The conventional overhead irrigated treatments had all N applied in the base dressing with irrigation scheduled from SMD calculations.
The closed loop treatments had nitrogen and irrigation delivered via drip automatically controlled by a sensor and logger system.
The work established that water content in the root zone can be monitored in real time using horizontally oriented soil moisture sensors linked to data logging and telemetry, and that these data can be used to automatically trigger drip irrigation for commercially grown field vegetables.
When the closed loop irrigation control was combined with fertigation treatments, lettuce crops were grown with savings of up to 60% and 75% of water and nitrogen respectively, compared to standard UK production systems.
However, excess supply of N through fertigation rather than solid fertiliser was more detrimental to marketable yield and post harvest quality highlighting that care is needed when selecting N rates for fertigation.
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