Improving Water Use Efficiency of Lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.) Using Phosphorous Fertilizers
© AlKhader and Abu Rayyan; licensee Springer. 2013
Received: 20 July 2013
Accepted: 14 October 2013
Published: 25 October 2013
A greenhouse pot experiment was conducted to evaluate the effect of phosphorous (P) fertilizers application to an alkaline calcareous soil on the water use efficiency (WUE) of lettuce cultivar “robinson” of iceberg type. Head fresh and dry weights, total water applied and WUE were affected significantly by the P fertilizer type and rate. P fertilizers addition induced a significant enhancement in the WUE and fresh and dry weights of the crop. A local phosphate rock (PR) applied directly was found to be inferior to the other types of P fertilizers (Mono ammonium phosphate (MAP), Single superphosphate (SSP), and Di ammonium phosphate ((DAP)). MAP fertilizer at 375 and 500 kg P2O5/ha application rates recorded the highest significant values of head fresh weight and WUE, respectively.
Globally, the paucity of water resources limits agricultural production. The increasing demand for food and water necessitates a more efficient water use of water in agriculture. Jordan is considered one of the ten poorest countries in water resources in the world (Al-Qerem, et al. 2012). Irrigation accounts for 62 % of the total water use in the country in the year 2005, and the allocated water for irrigation in the year 2003 was 511 million cubic meters (Ministry of Water and Irrigation 2004). Improved water use efficiency (WUE) represents a key factor in increasing crop productivity under such water scarcity conditions. Therefore, scientific research in this context to save irrigation water and improve its productivity in Jordan is extremely needed.
Phosphorus (P), in a balanced nutrient management program, can improve WUE and helps crops achieve optimal performance under limited moisture conditions (Briggs and Shantz 1913; Power et al. 1961). It was indicated that increasing P supply had a positive effect of on crop production and WUE (Pyne et al. 1992). Water use efficiency can be expressed as units of yield per unit of water used. Researchers (Ogata et al. 1960) had reported that the considerable enhancement in the water use and WUE by the crop could be attributed to the increase in root growth with high P supply.
Phosphorus is highly needed to establish and maintain crops especially in calcareous soils where the availability of P is very low (Siam et al. 2008). P-deficient plants are known to have lower photosynthetic rates, and decreased growth (Jacob and Lawlor 1991). However, adequately fertilized soils promote rapid leaf area expansion, thus increasing transpiration, and more rapid ground cover, which in turn reduces evaporation and increases WUE. Such increases have been largely attributed to a larger ratio of transpiration to evapotranspiration as a result of greater leaf area (Schmidhalter and Studer 1998).
Phosphate rock (PR) has been used directly in the world, especially in acid soils, as a supplemental P source at different levels but much less than other water-soluble P fertilizers (Khasawneh and Doll 1978). As P is an essential element for its growth and development, lettuce P demand is very high (Lana et al. 2004; Hasaneen et al. 2009). Therefore, lettuce can be used as a test plant.
The objective of this study was to investigate the performance of the lettuce head plant under varying types and rates of P fertilizers application in terms of fresh weight and WUE.
Materials and methods
A greenhouse pot experiment was conducted during the growing season 2009/2010 in The Jubeiha Agricultural Research Station of the University of Jordan in the University Campus which is located at 32° 40“ North and 35° 52” East, and 980 m above sea level and has a mean annual rainfall of about 414 mm.
Seedlings of lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.) cultivar “robinson” of iceberg type of 35 days after sowing (DAS) were obtained from a commercial nursery.
Experimental design and treatments
Chemical and physical analysis
Results of some chemical and physical properties of the soil used in the pot experiment
Results of chemical analysis for the irrigation water used in the pot experiment
Head fresh weight
The head fresh weight was determined using an electronic balance (± 0.1 g).
Plant samples (leaves and stems) were dried in the oven at 65°C for 72 hrs and the dry matter was determined (± 0.1 g).
Analysis of variance (ANOVA) and mean separation according to least significant difference (LSD) at the 5% level of significance were conducted for the results using SAS version 9.0 (SAS Institute Inc. 2002).
Results and discussion
Fresh and dry weights
Effect of P fertilizer on lettuce plant growth, total water applied and water use efficiency
Total applied water
Water use efficiency
Fertilizer rate (kg P 2 O 5 /ha)
Fertilizer type × rate
Interaction effect of P fertilizer on lettuce plant growth, water applied and water use efficiency
Total water applied
Water use efficiency
The superiority of MAP, SSP and DAP over PR could be attributed to their higher solubility and, thus, higher P availability to the plant as they are fast-release fertilizers (Miretzky and Fernandez 2008; Siam et al. 2008). The results, also, agree with the findings of many researchers (Chien and Menon 1995; Prochnow et al. 2006; Miretzky and Fernandez 2008) which indicated that PRs are of low solubility and, hence, low agronomic efficiency in high pH calcareous soils. Besides their higher solubility, ammonium phosphate fertilizers, like MAP and DAP, are superior to calcium phosphate fertilizers (like PRs) due to the presence of ammonium ion that has a positive effect on plant growth (Beaton and Nielsen 1959).
On the other hand, the relatively high agronomic performance for MAP compared with the other P fertilizers sources can be attributed to the higher production of H2PO4 - which is more readily available to the plants than the other P forms (Fixen 1990).
The enhancement effect of P application on plant growth could be related to the vital role of inorganic P, in the ATP form, which provides energy for CO2 assimilation in the Calvin Cycle in plant photosynthesis and the synthesis of starch, fatty acids and amino acids (Mikulska et al. 1998; Luo et al. 2009). However, the reduction of fresh and dry weights of the lettuce plant under lower P application rates and control treatments could be related to the role of the abscisic acid in growth inhibition as its content in plant leaves increases under such suboptimal growth conditions (Mikulska et al. 1998).
Higher application rates of different fertilizers, except PR, resulted in higher values of water applied (Table 4). This was supported by many investigators (Xu et al. 2004) who indicated that the rate of water uptake was higher at the high P application rate treatment than that at the low one, and this was attributed to the greater size of the plants at the high P level. On the other hand, plants fertilized with MAP at the application rate of 500 kg P2O5/ha recorded the highest significant value of total water applied (239.03 mm), and the lowest value was obtained at the control treatment of PR (107.77 mm). No significant differences in the total water applied were observed between that recorded at the 500 kg P2O5/ha rate of each of MAP and SSP fertilizers.
Water use efficiency
Conclusions and recommendations
The investigated P fertilizers, except PR, enhanced the performance of lettuce head plant grown in an alkaline calcareous soil through improving its WUE and increasing its fresh weight and, subsequently, the yield. MAP and SSP fertilizers were found to be superior to the other P fertilizers, and can be used successfully to improve the crop WUE and increase its yield. Direct application of PR to the alkaline calcareous soil was of low agronomic value. MAP fertilizer at the application rate of 375 kg P2O5/ha can be recommended in terms of both plant fresh weight and WUE, as this treatment of fertilizer can induce both relatively high crop yield and improve irrigation water productivity.
Authors would like to thank Deanship of Academic Research, University of Jordan, for the financial support, while the technical support from National Center for Agricultural Research and Extension (NCARE) is highly appreciated.
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