33 articles tagged "Soil Fertility and Fertilizers".

A few weeks ago, Great Lakes Vegetable Producer’s Network discussed hoophouse nutrient management. Judson Reid from Cornell University and David Van Eeckhout from The Good Acre, St. Paul, MN are the invited speakers. They shared their insights in hoophouse nutrient management. I find them very helpful, thus want to pass my notes to Indiana hoophouse growers. Judson pointed two things from greenhouse perspective that may greatly benefit hoophouse growers, one is ventilation, another is pollination. Ventilation is important for managing relative humidity and maintaining carbon dioxide level. But ventilation may be sacrificed in hoophouse for the reason of maintaining temperatures during periods of cool weather. For hoophouse growers, anything that can increase ventilation (end wall vents, peak vent) could greatly benefit vegetable production in the early season. Hoophouse tomato growers can also greatly benefit from bumblebees for pollination. If the structure is usually closed and there is little wind movement[Read More…]


We know from published research that the health and quality of a vegetable transplant affects how it will establish, grow, and yield in the field. Our recent work comparing tomato and cucurbit seedling growth in different organic growing media and with and without added fertilizer has provided some good examples of this. See Vegetable Crop Hotline issues 653 and 668 for descriptions of media. Tomatoes flowered and set fruit earlier, and had greater early yield when the seedlings were grown in a media that sustained good growth (Figure 1), or if in a media with low fertility but were provided additional nutrients from solid or liquid fertilizer (Figure 2). What does this mean for transplant producers? Plan to provide nutrients the seedlings need, either pre-mixed in the growing media or by adding fertilizer. Among the media for organic production that we tested, additional fertilizer was most beneficial to those media[Read More…]


Dear Watermelon Growers, At our past winter technical meeting, several growers suggested fertilizer recommendations need to be reevaluated for watermelon production in our area. This suggestion is timely and critical. We plan to initiate a project for the 2020 watermelon production season to reevaluate the fertility and irrigation practices used in Indiana.  We will identify 7-10 watermelon fields with different irrigation and fertility practices. We will collect soil samples and plant tissue samples at different crop growth stages. Lab results will be shared with growers immediately after they are received. Growers who wish to closely watch the nutritional status of the watermelon plants may want to take this free opportunity. As part of this project, we will collect information about fertilizer and irrigation application, and approximate yield of the evaluating field from growers. Summarized results of this project will be shared at the next Southwest Indiana Vegetable and Melon Growers[Read More…]


Figure 1. Take soil samples at 6 inches deep

This article introduces a new soil test for high tunnel growers. Why is there a need for a new soil test for high tunnel production? Soil tests are valuable tools helping growers decide how much fertilizers and/or other soil amendments to apply for growing a specific vegetable crop. It also helps growers to detect soil fertility-related problems early. The routine soil test and its recommendations for vegetable crops were developed based on research conducted in the open field. When it comes to high tunnel production, the routine soil test and recommendations become less valuable for at least three reasons: Crops growing in high tunnels typically have a much higher yield potential; they require more nutrients than the same crop grown in the open-field with lower yield potential. Therefore the soil test index (low, medium, high) and recommendation for specific nutrients may not apply for high tunnel crops. Since there is[Read More…]


Figure 2. Wilt of watermelon seedlings due to grown in a high EC medium.

Producing healthy transplants is a critical step for a successful growing season. Choosing the proper growing media is an important first step. Supported by a USDA Specialty Crops Block Grant through the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, researchers from Purdue have been evaluating different organic growing media with and without adding supplemental organic fertilizers for tomato and cucurbit transplant production. In this article, we have highlighted a few transplant symptoms that are associated with growing media with excessively high or low electrical conductivity (EC) or pH. It is always a good idea to test EC, pH, and other important nutrient content of a medium when you are making your own or using an unfamiliar media. Most soil laboratories provide a saturated media extract test that provides information on these important parameters. More information about this test and suggested range of EC and pH can be found in this article http://www.soiltest.uconn.edu/factsheets/InterpSMEGreenMedia.pdf[Read More…]


Basic Aspects of High Tunnel Soil Fertility Management – (Petrus Langenhoven, plangenh@purdue.edu, 765-496-7955) – Spring has arrived! Every high tunnel grower is now thinking of planting summer vegetable crops in high tunnels or has already planted. Whichever scenario applies to you, I hope that you have submitted soil samples or are in the process of submitting samples to your closest laboratory. Have you analyzed your irrigation water? It will be a good idea to send a water sample along too. There is a lot of important information locked up in your water and soil test results. The results will help you to plan and manage your high tunnel fertility program. Remember, growing in a high tunnel is like growing crops in an irrigated desert. Natural rainfall is unavailable inside your high tunnel and therefore all your plants water needs are satisfied through an irrigation system. Fertilizer needs could be addressed[Read More…]


I visited a few high tunnels around the state recently and used a hand-held soil electrical conductivity (EC) meter to test soil salinity levels inside of the structures. Although the hand-held EC meter may not give ratings as accurate as a soil test lab could provide, I had comparative ratings from several farms. Interestingly, by talking to growers, I found tomatoes grown in the high tunnels that have relatively high EC ratings seem to suffer more problems in the past season. In most cases, the unhealthy plants have been taken out of the tunnels by the time I visited (in early August). In one situation, the farmer reported flower abortion and a lot of blossom end rot. In another situation, the farmer described a widespread leaf spot symptom that was not a disease. He followed the recommendation based on plant tissue analysis, but the problem was not solved. In the third situation, tomato[Read More…]


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This article is my response to a grower’s question about lowering soil pH in a high tunnel. The soil test indicated pH of the soil in his high tunnel was 7.7. The high pH could be partially caused by alkaline water he used to use for irrigation. The grower has changed the water source, but high soil pH is still a concern. ‘I have soil sample from the high tunnels if I could have your input on them I would appreciate it. I am concerned with the pH, should I use sulfur to bring it down, if so, how much?’ Following is my response to the grower’s question. My response is mainly based on the publication ‘Lowering Soil pH for Horticulture Crops‘. Purdue Extension HO-241-W. We have a few choices to reduce soil pH. Adding elemental sulfur is one way to do it. If you want to reduce soil pH[Read More…]


Figure 1. Breakdown of young leaf tissues in the heart of a celery plant

Blackheart of celery is a physiological disorder that causes significant crop loss in major celery production areas. It is characterized by the breakdown of young leaf tissues in the heart of the plants (Figure 1). The affected young tissues turn black, which give it the name “blackheart”.  The cause of blackheart of celery is related to calcium deficiency in the fast expanding tissues, similar to the cause of blossom-end rot of tomato and tip-burn of lettuce. The symptom is more severe as plants approach maturity. Fluctuation in soil moistures; excessive soil fertility, especially nitrogen and potassium; and high soil salinity favor the development of blackheart. Varieties may show different tolerance to the physiological disorder. In addition, the problem can be prevented by avoiding wide fluctuation of soil moisture and over-fertilization. Drench application and foliar spray of soluble calcium direct to the heart of the plant may help to prevent the[Read More…]


Figure 1. Fertilizers form insoluble precipitations that clog drip emitters.

When mixing fertilizers, it is important to check fertilizer compatibility before application. If incompatible fertilizers are mixed, they form insoluble precipitations that can clog drip emitters and damage sprayers used to apply foliar fertilizers (Figure 1.). This article discusses a few scenarios for which special attention should be paid on the solubility of mixed fertilizers. Scenario 1. A grower is using 20-20-20, a complete fertilizer to fertigate tomatoes. To prevent blossom end rot, he decided to add calcium nitrate in his fertigation program. However, problems may be caused by the application of these two fertilizers.  The reason is that calcium from calcium nitrate and phosphate from ammonium phosphate in the complete fertilizer may form calcium phosphate, which is insoluble in water. Scenario 2. A soil test indicates that tomato plants are low in magnesium. Epson salt (magnesium sulfate) is recommended to correct magnesium deficiency. The grower should avoid applying Epson[Read More…]


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