Controlled release fertiliser as a management tool for productivity of tunnel-grown tomatoes

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Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University
ENGLISH ABSTRACT: To be able to grow crops such as tomatoes on a commercial scale under stringent controlled conditions in what is termed controlled environment agriculture (CEA), requires a great amount of expertise and technology. Therefore, the aim of this study was to see if the use of controlled release fertilizer as an alternative low expertise and low technology-based fertilization method could produce the same yields and marketability than the conventional fertigation fertilization methods used in greenhouse tomato production. The study assessed this by (1) determining if the ratio of perlite to coco coir in the growth medium had any effect on the yield response to an industry recommended controlled release fertilization recommendation, (2) trying to establish an appropriate mixing ratio of controlled release fertilizer (CRF) and liquid fertilizer (LF) to determine if a follow up fertilization application of the pre-plant applied CRF can obtain improved yields. From the results it was evident that by applying a mixture of 80% CRF (based on the fraction of the total % nitrogen applied) and 20% LF with additional monthly manual application of calcium sulphate or calcium nitrate to each planting bag, CRF could potentially replace a 100% LF fertilization programme in greenhouse tomato production. Some results here indicate that a spike in temperature at the beginning of the growing season may have contributed to the premature release of nutrients from the CRF prill, causing a spike in EC. This stunted the growth of the plants for the rest of the season, which could have been attributed to an initial toxic level of salts in the rootzone and a prolonged deficit of other essential nutrients. The growth media trial for the determination of the optimal perlite: coco coir ratio revealed that a mix consisting of 20% perlite to 80% coco coir, or 40% perlite and 60% coco coir were the best ratios that yielded the highest. Thus, for tomato production the effect of CRF would be greatly improved if applied in an environment where the temperature and growth media properties are favourable for the slow release of the nutrients. The evidence here did not support the utilisation of 100% CRF as a replacement of the currently employed LF for commercial greenhouse tomato production. In addition, it is imperative that additional calcium (Ca2+), Sulphate (SO42-) and Nitrate (NO3-) be supplemented to reap the full benefits of CRF due to the ongoing technological research into the ability to coat calcium-based fertilizer products as a CRF.
AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Geen opsomming beskikbaar.
Thesis (MScAgric)--Stellenbosch University, 2022.
Tomato growers, Controlled release fertilizers, Greenhouse tomato production, Controlled environment agriculture, Tomatoes -- Fertilizers, Tomatoes --Growth -- Yields, Greenhouse management, UCTD