Mineral nutrition of cultivated South African proteaceace

Matlhoahela, Patience Tshegohatso (2006-03)

Thesis (MscAgric (Horticulture))--University of Stellenbosch, 2006.


Protea, Leucadendron and Leucospermum belong to the Proteaceae family. These three genera form an important part of the floriculture industry in South Africa and are commonly used as fresh cut flowers or dried flowers for both the local and international market. The distribution of macro and micro - nutrients was investigated in Protea ‘Cardinal’ using rooted cuttings grown from October 2001 to March 2002. The plants were divided into 1st flush leaf and stem, 2nd flush leaf and stem, basal leaf and basal stem, roots and the flower bud. These tissues were analysed to determine N, P, K, Ca, Mg, Fe, S, Na, B and Mn concentration. Results indicated that N decreased over time in all tissues and accumulated more in leaves than in stems. P in leaves and stems increased with time, while K increased in leaf tissues and remained stable in stem tissue. Ca did not change in young leaves but was high in old leaves. Mg in leaves increased but in basal stem, 1st flush stem and roots Mg decreased over time. Fe in leaves and roots increased with time and not a less significant change occurred in stems. In most tissues, B and Na decreased with time. S increased in leaves and decreased in stems with time. Mn was relatively stable in most tissues except in basal leaves where it increased. Nutrient concentration in tissues, especially in leaves, showed no distinct pattern in the distribution of nutrients. Eleven cultivars from the three genera, namely Protea, Leucadendron and Leucospermum, were used to develop deficiency symptoms of macro - nutrients by using different nutrient compositions. The plants were grown in 20cm pots from December 2002 to September 2003. The eleven cultivars were chosen because of their high market value. Visual symptoms were recorded in two stages with a five - month interval for each stage. The first stage was recorded from December 2002 to April 2003 and the second stage was recorded from May 2003 to September 2003. Observed symptoms indicated significant differences between the control and treatments in which specific nutrients were withheld. Some cultivars exhibited some symptoms that are commonly noticed under field conditions, e.g. in the N deficiency treatment the upper leaves of Protea ‘Sylvia’ were reddish and the lower leaves were chlorotic especially at the later stage. Protea ‘Red Rex’ in the P deficiency treatment had random red tints around the leaf including the petiole, these symptoms are also commonly noticed in Protea ‘Red ‘Rex’ in field conditions. Leucadendron ‘Rosette’ also showed some uncommon symptoms of accumulating “sugar” on leaf tips in Ca deficiency treatment that was not observed in any other cultivar. In some cultivars the symptoms were systematic e.g. Leucadendron ‘Chameleon’ while in other cultivars the deficiency affected a certain leaf age e.g. Leucospermum ‘High Gold’ in the Ca deficiency treatment. The buds in 'High Gold' died prematurely in the Ca deficiency treatment. Protea ‘Cardinal’ was used to determine the optimal N and P source and concentrations for optimal growth. Protea ‘Cardinal’ was grown in a temperaturecontrolled glasshouse for seven months using silica sand as growth medium. Different levels and sources of N and P were applied. The N was applied in a complete nutrient solution as NH4 +, NO3 -, NH4 +: NO3 - (1: 1, 1: 4 and 4: 1 ratios) and Urea, at different concentration levels: 5 mM, 1 mM and 0.1 mM. P was applied at 1 mM, 0.1 mM and 0.01 mM. The plants were fertigated manually with 1L nutrient solution on every second day of the week. P at 0.01 mM and 0.1 mM resulted in optimal plant growth. The 1 mM P resulted in marginal leaf scorching or dryness. When N was applied at 5 mM plant growth was more optimal than when N was applied at 1 mM and 0.1 mM. More dry weight was accumulated at 5 mM than at 1 mM or 0.1 mM N. The dry weight of leaves, stem and roots tissues at 5 mM were higher in the NO3 - treatment.

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