Increasing the length of irrigation time by reducing the operating pressure (OP) of drip irrigation systems may result in decreased deep percolation and may allow for reduced nitrogen (N) fertilizer application rates, thereby minimizing the environmental impact of tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) production. The objectives of this studywere to determine the effects of irrigationOP (6 and 12 psi),Nfertilizer rate (100%, 80%, and 60% of the recommended 200 lb/acre N), and irrigation rates [IRRs (100% and 75% of the target 1000-4000 gal/acre per day)] on fresh-market tomato plant nutritional status and yields. Nitrate (NO3-)-N concentration in petiole sap of 'Florida 47' tomatoes grown in Spring 2008 and 2009 in a raised-bed plasticulture system was not significantly affected by treatments in both years and were within the sufficiency ranges at first-flower, 2-inch-diameter fruit, and first-harvest growth stages (420-1150, 450-770, and 260-450 mg·L-1, respectively). In 2008, marketable yields were greater at 6 psi than at 12 psi OP [753 vs. 598 25-lb cartons/acre (P < 0.01)] with no significant difference among N rate treatments. But in 2009, marketable yields were greater at 12 psi [1703 vs. 1563 25-lb cartons/acre at 6 psi (P = 0.05)] and 100%Nrate [1761 vs. 1586 25-lb cartons/acre at 60%Nrate (P = 0.04)]. Irrigation rate did not have any significant effect (P = 0.59) on tomato marketable yields in either year with no interaction between IRR and N rate or OP treatments. Hence, growing tomatoes at 12 psi OP, 100% of recommended N rate, and 75% of recommended IRR provided the highest marketable yields with least inputs in a drip-irrigated plasticulture system. In addition, these results suggest that smaller amounts of irrigation water and fertilizers (75% and 60% of the recommended IRR andNrate, respectively) could be applied when using a reduced irrigation OP of 6 psi for the early part of the tomato crop season. In the later part of the season, as water demand increased, the standard OP of 12 psi could be used.Changing the irrigationOPoffers the grower some flexibility to alter the flow rates to suit the water demands of various growth stages of the crop. Furthermore, it allows irrigation to be applied over an extended period of time, which could better meet the crop's needs for water throughout the day. Such an irrigation strategy could improve water and nutrient use efficiencies and reduce the risks of nutrient leaching. The results also suggest thatOP(and flow rate) should be included in production recommendations for drip-irrigated tomato.
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