"Stop nitrogen overdose in soilless tomato to promote fruit quality"

Precision horticulture is fundamental to ensure high quality production with a minimal environmental footprint. It offers the possibility to manage climatic and fertilization inputs closer to the plant needs. In practice, there is a tendency to over‐fertilize, as nitrogen limitation can decrease photosynthesis and consequently fruit yield, but also because nutrient recycling does not lead to any substantial costs increase, thus ignoring the influence of nitrogen input on the balance between growth and metabolism.

Nitrogen recommendation for tomato greenhouse production on rockwool is 16mM, even it is well established that only 50% of nitrogen amount is really absorbed by plants. A new study compares the usual practice (16 mM) to a nitrogen supply to meet plant’s needs (5 mM). We analyzed plant growth and development, yield, leaf photosynthetic activity and fruit quality (sugars, acids, vitamin C,) over the entire crop period (December to October).

Over‐fertilization favoured the accumulation of nitrogen in leaves and stem but yield, leaf photosynthetic activity and plant architecture were not significantly improved. In addition, it decreased the quality of the tomatoes as the sugar:acid ratio decreased dramatically in the pericarp, whereas the locular gel composition remained similar. A reduction of the nitrogen supply is one solution to improve tomato quality without any reduction of yield in greenhouse. These data have to be incorporated in tomato fertigation management to define a new standard based on overall quality of tomato fruit and low environmental footprint.

Access the full study at Agronomy

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