Low concentration fertigation solution allows greater macronutrient use efficiency in coffee seedlings
Coffee seedling production in tubes and substrate results in lower sanitary risk and costs. With the use of small containers and nutrient-poor substrates, fertilization, including fertigation, is necessary for seedling development. An experiment was conducted with three macronutrient concentrations (electrical conductivities of 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 dS m-1) and a control (non-fertilized), using Coffea arabica cv. Topázio seedlings in 50 cm3 tubes and composted pine bark-based substrate. The following (in g m-3 of water) were used in the nutrient solution with EC of 1.0 dS m-1: Ca(NO3)2 (400), KNO3 (250), MgSO4 (175), (NH4)PO4 (50) and ConMicros Standard® (25). In the solutions with 2.0 and 3.0 dS m-1, macronutrient concentration was doubled and tripled, while micronutrients remained the same. At four months we assessed EC and pH of the solution drained, shoot dry mass, shoot nutrient concentration and accumulation and macronutrient efficiency use. Fertigation with 1.0 and 2.0 dS m-1 produced seedlings with greater mass (+10%) than fertigation with 3.0 dS m-1, higher macronutrient supply increased shoot N, P, K, Mg and S concentration. Fertigation of 2.0 dS m-1 caused greater shoot N, P, K and Ca accumulation and this conductivity also resulted in higher accumulation of B, Fe, Mn and Zn without increasing the micronutrient supply. The response to the increase in Ca in the nutrient solution is evident in the accumulation of this nutrient in the plant but not its concentration, possibly due to the dilution effect. Micronutrient accumulation in this species is also more adequate for determining nutritional status than the concentration in the plant. The least concentrated macronutrient solution increases nutrient use efficiency in C. arabica seedlings as well as being economically and environmentally more sustainable.
Key words: Coffea arabica; Electrical conductivity; pH; Nutrition; Substrate.
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