The influence of different calcium levels, irrigation methods and storage temperatures on the yield, quality and growth potential of G0 mini-tubers

De Villiers, Andre Jaco (2007-12)

University of Stellenbosch. Faculty of Agrisciences. Dept. of Agronomy.

Thesis (MScAgric (Agronomy)--University of Stellenbosch, 2007.

Thesis

Calcium (Ca) is an important plant nutrient with many functions, such as strengthening of cell walls and maintaining membrane stability and cell integrity. A greenhouse experiment was conducted using an aeroponic production system, to evaluate the influence of different Ca: K & Mg ratios (consisting of a control [100% Ca], and three treatments in which the Ca levels were changed to 33%, 66% and 133% of the control, while the K and Mg levels were adjusted to compensate for the change in Ca) and two different irrigation methods (irrigation on roots only, and irrigation on roots and stolons) on tuber yield and mineral concentration. The treatment that received the highest Ca: K & Mg ratio had significantly more larger tubers than the lowest Ca treatment, although there was no significant difference in total tuber number between treatments. The high Ca treatment also had a significantly higher Ca concentration in the skin than the low Ca treatment. The site of irrigation did not have a significant effect on the total tuber number per plant, or on the Ca content of the tubers that were produced. The tubers produced in the first experiment were divided into two weight classes, and stored at three different temperatures. The percentage weight loss during storage was determined by weighing the tubers before, and again after storage. The firmness of the tubers was also measured after storage. Tubers were then stored in a dark room at room temperature to allow sprouts to develop. The sprouts of each tuber were counted and weighed. Weight loss was the lowest for tubers stored at 3oC. Firmness of the tubers increased as the Ca: K & Mg ratio of the nutrient solution used during production was increased. Number of sprouts was the highest for tubers stored at 6oC. Sprout number was also significantly higher for the larger tubers compared to the smaller ones. Total sprout weight was the highest for the tubers stored at 6oC, and was also the highest for the larger tubers. After sprouts started to develop, the tubers were planted again in the greenhouse, in sawdust and irrigated with a complete Steiner nutrient solution at 1.5 mS cm-1. After these plants were harvested, the leaf area and dry weight of the leaves were determined. The first generation tubers were counted and weighed. The only factor that had a significant influence on the growth of the plants, was the size of the seed tubers that were used. The larger seed tubers produced plants that had significantly higher leaf areas, dry weight of leaves, as well as higher yields than that of the plants produced from the smaller seed tubers. From the results of this study, it can be concluded that Ca has a definite positive effect on the quality of seed potatoes as well as the size of the tubers that are produced. This study also supported that seed tubers should be stored at low temperatures, around 3oC, to maintain the highest quality, while larger tubers proved to out-yield smaller ones.

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