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Tami G Grape Tomato Response to Nitrogen Rates

E. Simonne, R. Hochmuth, C. Starling, S. Kerr, G. Hochmuth and J. Chandler Horticultural Sciences Department IFAS/University of Florida 1241 Fifield Hall, Gainesville FL, 32611-0690 USA Keywords: Lycopersicon esculentum Mill., best management practices, BMP, nutrient management, plasticulture Abstract Grape tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) have recently gained in popularity among consumers because they can be eaten without being cut, they are deep red in color, and their flavor is intense and pleasant. Current N fertilization recommendations have been developed for determinate tomato varieties that have a 3-month long growing season, whereas that of the indeterminate grape cultivars may be up to six months. Tami G grape tomatoes (previously identified as a suitable alternative to Santa) were grown on a Lakeland fine sand at the North Florida Research and Education Center-Suwannee Valley, near Live Oak, FL in the Spring of 2005 using standard plasticulture practices under 0%, 33%, 66%, 100%, 133%, and 166% of the current recommended rate for round tomato (224 kg/ha). Tomatoes were transplanted 24 Mar. and harvested, weighed and graded five times between 10 June and 15 July. Soluble solid concentrations (SSC) were also measured at each harvest. Season marketable (SMY, kg/ha) and total yield (TY, kg/ha) response to N rates were quadratic (SMY = -0.16 Nrate2 + 140 Nrate + 11,821 R2=0.56; CV=32%; TY = -0.18 Nrate2 + 153 Nrate + 13949; R2=0.54, CV=32%; both p<0.01). Highest SMY and TY occurred between 314 and 392 kg/ha N rates. N rate effect on SMY and TY was significant only for harvest 4 and 5. SSC ranged from 6.25 to 7.5Brix for harvests 1 to 4 and was not significantly affected by N rate. On harvest 5, SSC tended to be greater with higher N rates. These preliminary results suggest that N fertilization for grape tomato could be done by incorporating 56 to 78 kg/ha of N in the bed, followed by daily rates ranging from 0.5 to 3.5 kg/ha/day. Because the length of the growing season for grape tomato may vary, emphasis should be placed on daily N rates and irrigation management, rather than on seasonal N rate. INTRODUCTION Grape tomatoes have recently gained in popularity among consumers because they can be eaten without being cut, they are deep red in color, and their flavor is intense. Together with the 20,000 ha of round tomato grown in Florida, it is estimated that grape tomatoes are grown on 2,000 ha. Production recommendations and practices used for grape tomato are similar to those for round tomato (Olson et al., 2005). Typically, grape tomatoes are grown with plasticulture (raised beds, polyethylene-mulched beds spaced 1.8-m apart) using transplants, and picked at the full-red stage to ensure high quality (Roberts et al., 2002). In Florida, plants are irrigated using drip or seepage irrigation (management of a perched water table). Because current grape tomato varieties are indeterminate, grape tomato may be grown for up to six months (Simonne et al., 2006). Hence, grape tomatoes require taller stakes (240-cm tall), are tied 6 to 8 times, and need hedging to control vigor. Fertilization may also need to be adjusted. Current recommendations for tomato production in Florida are 224 kg/ha of N, and are based on soil test for P and K (Olson et al., 2005). When fertigation is possible, 20% to 40% of the N and K should be applied broadcast incorporated in the bed, together with 100% of the P. The remaining N and K2O may be injected daily or weekly at daily rates of 1.7, 2.3, 2.8, 2.3 and 1.7 kg/ha/day for 1-2, 3-4, 5-11, 12, and 13 WAT (Olson et al., 2005).
Proc. IVth IC on MQUIC Eds. A.C. Purvis et al. Acta Hort. 712, ISHS 2006


As an attempt to make up for long growing seasons, growers often use N rates in excess of the recommended rate for round tomato. Growers also believe that high N rates help maintain grape tomato soluble solid content high, thereby increasing quality. However, Best Management Practices for vegetables encourages growers to follow recommendations as an attempt to reduce the environmental impact of vegetable production on surface and ground water quality (FDACS, 2006). The objectives of this project were to (1) determine N requirement for drip-irrigated grape tomato, and (2) assess the effect of N rate on grape tomato fruit quality. MATERIALS AND METHODS Six-week-old transplants were established on March 23, 2005 (0 week after transplanting, WAT) at the North Florida Research and Education Center - Suwannee Valley near Live Oak, FL on a Lakeland fine sand. Tomatoes were grown on plasticulture on beds spaced 152 cm apart and at a 46-cm within row spacing, which created a stand of 10,700 plants/ha. Fertilization treatments consisted of 0%, 33%, 66%, 100%, 133%, and 166% of the current recommended rate for round tomato. Treatments were created by applying 25% of N and K2O broadcast preplant in the bed and eight identical weekly injections of the remaining N from 4 to 11 WAT. This corresponded to daily injection rates of 3 kg/ha of N for the 100% N rate. Phosphorus and K rates were based on soil test results and were constant for all treatments. Modifications of the drip irrigation system allowed for independent fertilizer injections to plots receiving the different N rates. Each plot was 7-m long and was planted in yellow Honey Bunch plants that were not used for data collection. Marketable yield, culls and soluble solid content were collected on two red Tami G plants planted in the middle of each plot. Interplanting a yellow and a red variety allowed for large plots while minimizing labor needed for harvest. Tomatoes were staked to a 244-cm height and strung five times. Irrigation was applied daily based on plant stage of growth (irrigation length ranging from 2x30 min each day for small plants to 3x1.5 hrs for large plants) in order to maintain soil water tension at the 30 cm depth between 8 (field capacity) and 15 kPa (Simonne et al., 2006). Other cultural practices followed current recommendations (Olson et al., 2005). Plants were harvested weekly five times at the red stage on 10, 17, 24 June and 7 and 15 July (11 to16 WAT). The last harvest also included partially ripe fruits. At each harvest, 3 representative tomatoes from each plot were cut in halves and crushed with a garlic press. The juice was placed on the prism of a handheld refractometer for the determination of soluble solid concentration (SSC). Petiole sap NO3-N and K concentrations were determined following current recommendations (Olson et al., 2006) at first fruit set (5 WAT), first (11 WAT) and third (13 WAT) harvests. The experimental design was a randomized complete block design with four replications. Marketable yield, SSC, and petiole NO3-N and K concentration responses to N rates were determine using regression analysis (SAS, 2001). RESULTS AND DISCUSSION Spring 2005 was a typical warm and dry spring in North Florida. Grape tomato marketable yield responses to N rates were linear for harvest 1 (p=0.34), and quadratic for other harvests (Fig. 1). Because yield was measured on only two plants in each plot, variability was high (weekly CV ranged between 27% and 59%). Culls represented less than 5% of marketable yield and were primarily due to fruit split. N rate effect on SSC was overall not significant (p-values>0.46, CV<15%). SSC values were 7, 6.6, 6.9, and 7.1Brix for harvests 1 to 4, respectively. On harvest 5, SSC ranged from 5.4 to 6.8Brix but response did not follow related to N rates. These results suggest that N rate has a limited effect on SSC. Factors such as variety (Molinar and Yang, 2003) and ripeness (Roberts et al., 2002) may be more important for grape tomato quality. These results do not support the growers claims that greater N rates results in greater SSC. Increasing N rates significantly (P<0.01) increased petiole NO3-N concentration at all three sampling dates (Fig. 2a). Petiole NO3-N concentrations were significantly greater with the 33% to 492

166% N rates (1,400 to 2,000 mg/L of NO3-N), 100% and 166% N rates (1300 to 1400 mg/L of NO3-N), 166% N rate (780 mg/L of NO3-N) at first bloom (6 WAT), first harvest (9 WAT), and fifth harvest (13 WAT), respectively. In comparison, current sufficiency ranges for round tomato in petiole sap are 1,000-1,200, 300-400, and 200-400 mg/L of NO3-N, at first bloom, first and second harvest, respectively. These results together with yield results suggest that grape tomato sufficiency ranges for NO3-N may be 1,500-2,000, 1,200-1,400 and 800 to 1,000 mg/L, which is higher than those currently recommended for round tomato. A larger number of petiole samples and N rates will be needed to validate and fine tune these ranges. As expected, N rates had no practical effect on petiole K concentration. Petiole K concentrations ranges were 3,300-4,200, 3,300-4,000, and 3,000-6,400 at first bloom, first and fifth harvests, respectively (Fig. 2b). Fertigation recommendations in Florida are based on crop stage of growth. In this trial, injection rates were 3.2 kg/ha for 4-11 WAT. Nitrate sap concentrations at first bloom (5 WAT) and the lack of yield response to N rates on the first two harvests (11 and 12 WAT) suggest that a 3.2 kg/ha/day rate was unnecessarily high. It could be replaced by the current schedule for round tomato from 0 to 10 WAT. Highest yields on the 4th and 5th harvests (15 and 16 WAT) with the 133% and 166% N rates suggest that grape tomato may require up to 3.5 kg/ha/day of N to maximize yields during that period. An intermediate N rate of 3 kg/ha/day may be used between 11 and 14 WAT. This proposed schedule should be used with grape tomato grown in the Spring with plasticulture and may need to be fine tuned in a validation study. CONCLUSIONS Grape tomato may be grown following current recommendations for round tomato until heavy fruit set (3rd harvest), and daily N rates approximately 25% greater thereafter. Because the actual length of the growing season is determined by market conditions and not plant growth, N fertilization rate programs for grape tomato should focus on establishing daily N rates at different periods of production rather than on the seasonal N rate: 50 kg/ha preplant incorporated, and weekly injections of 0, 1.7, 2.3, 2.8, 2.3, 3, 3.5 kg/ha/day for 1, 2, 3-4, 5-10, 11-14, and 15-16 WAT, respectively. This proposed schedule needs to be validated under commercial conditions that use optimal irrigation practices. Nitrogen rate effect on SSC was of no practical importance. Literature Cited FDACS, 2006. Water Quality/Quantity Best Management Practice for Vegetable and Agronomic Crops Manual, 179 pp. Florida Dept. of Agric. and Consumer Serv., http:// www.floridaagwaterpolicy.com. Molinar, R.H. and Yang, M. 2003. Fresno county grape tomato variety trial. http://www.sfc.ucdavis.edu/research/FRESNO_COUNTY_GRAPE_TOMATO VARIETY_TRIAL_REPORT.pdf (accessed October 20, 2004). Olson, S.M., Maynard, D.N., Hochmuth, G.J., Vavrina, C.S., Stall, W.M., Momol, M.T., Webb, S.E., Taylor, T.G. Smith, S.A. and Simonne, E.H. 2005. Tomato production in Florida, pp. 357-375 In: Olson, S.M. and Simonne, E. (Eds.) 2005-2006 Vegetable Production Handbook for Florida, Vance Pub., Lenexa, KS. Roberts, K.P., Sargent, S.A. and Foxx, A.J. 2002. Effects of storage temperature on ripening and postharvest quality of grape and mini-pear tomatoes. Proc. Fla. State Hort. Soc. 115: 80-84. SAS. 2001. SAS/STAT users guide, Ver. 8.2, SAS Institute, Cary, NC. Simonne, E., Sargent, S.A., Studstill, D., Simonne, A., Hochmuth, R. and Kerr, S. 2006. Field performance, chemical composition and sensory evaluation of grape tomato varieties. Proc. Fla. Hort. Soc. 119: 376-378.



Harvest 1 Harvest 1 & 2 Harvest 1,2 & 3 Harvest 1,2,3 & 4 Harvest 1,2,3,4 & 5 Poly. (Harvest 1,2,3,4 & 5) Poly. (Harvest 1,2,3 & 4) Poly. (Harvest 1,2 & 3) Poly. (Harvest 1 & 2) Linear (Harvest 1)

y1 = 378.34x + 1206.5 R2 = 0.72 y2 = -329.66x2 + 3239.9x + 779.63 R2 = 0.89


Marketable Yield (kg/ha)


y5 = -1121.2x2 + 14514x - 1573 R2 = 0.86 30000

y4 = -1334.5x + 14406x - 3677.5 R2 = 0.88

20000 y3 = -1165x2 + 10324x - 2381.8 R2 = 0.87 10000

0 0 78 157 235 314 392

Nitrogen Rate (kg/ha)

Fig. 1. Marketable yield (kg/ha, 5 harvests cumulated) response of Tami G grape tomato grown with plasticulture in the Spring of 2005 at the North Florida Research and Education Center- Suwannee Valley, near Live Oak, FL, to nitrogen rates (y1 to y5 represent cumulative yields from up to harvest 1, to up to harvest 5, respectively)



0 kg/ha N-rate

NO3-N Petiole Sap Concentration (mg/L)

78 kg/ha N-rate

157 kg/ha N-rate 235 kg/ha N-rate


314 kg/ha N-rate 392 kg/ha N-rate



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K+ Sap Petiole Concentration (mg/L)




0 kg/ha N-rate

78 kg/ha N-rate 157 kg/ha N-rate 235 kg/ha N-rate 314 kg/ha N-rate 392 kg/ha N-rate


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Fig. 2. Responses of NO3-N (a) and K (b) sap concentrations in petioles of Tami G grape tomato grown with plasticulture in the Spring of 2005 at the North Florida Research and Education Center- Suwannee Valley, near Live Oak, FL, to nitrogen rates on 5 May, 2 June and 23 June.

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