Tomato Seedling Growth and Leaf Nutrient Uptake using Different Nutrient Solutions in the Tropics.

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Ramírez-Guerrero, H.O., and Meza-Figueroa, C.A. 2012. Tomato Seedling Growth and Leaf Nutrient Uptake using Different Nutrient Solutions in the Tropics. SEST. Brasilia, Brazil. Acta Horticulturae (In press).

The use of a proper nutrient solution is a key factor in achieving the production of vigorous seedlings and subsequently obtaining profitable yields. It is true indeed when the producer says: “A good seedling is 50% of the production”. However, management of vegetable seedlings nutrition in Venezuela and in most tropical countries is seldom practiced, or it is carried out empirically, without any planning. The influence of different nutrient solutions on the growth of tomato seedlings and leaf nutrient uptake was investigated in an experiment conducted at a commercial nursery farm located in Quibor, Lara state. The treatments were: (1) tap water alone (TW); (2) conventional grower nutrient solution (C); (3) Wye nutrient solution (W); and (4) W+TW (dW; concentration of 50 %), using individual 200-plastic transplant trays filled with a combination of peat and coir (60 and 40 % respectively). It was found that all the seedling growth parameters evaluated (height, number of leaves, leaf area, stem diameter and shoot and root dry weights were significantly higher in W and dW solutions than in the C and control (TW) solutions. Similar responses were observed regarding leaf nutrient uptake. Plant tissues accumulated more nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and magnesium when W and dW were used. The lack of observed differences between C and TW could be associated to some nutrients supplied mainly from peat. Results from the study suggest that introducing new and balanced nutrient solutions is a crucial horticultural practice for the production of vegetable seedlings. Besides, further research on integrated and planned seedling fertilization using other nutrient solutions (organic and mineral) and alternative substrates are recommended.