Management of Fertigation in Horticultural Crops through Automation with Electrotensiometers: Effect on the Productivity of Water and Nutrients

Sensors (Basel). 2020 Dec 30;21(1):190. doi: 10.3390/s21010190.


Water and nutrient requirements of horticultural crops are influenced by different factors such as: Type of crop, stage of development and production system. Although greenhouse horticultural crops are more efficient in the use of water and fertilizers compared to other production systems, it is necessary increase efficiency for which individualized fertigation strategies must be designed for each greenhouse. The automation of fertigation based on the level of soil moisture allows optimization of management. The objective of this work was to determine the influence of the activation command of fertigation with electrotensiometers and the characteristics of the greenhouse on the productivity of the crop and the efficiency of use of water and nutrients in a sweet pepper crop. The trial was developed in two greenhouses. Four treatments were studied, combination of who two-factor: Soil matric potential (SMP) (SMP-10: Automatic activation of irrigation to -10 kPa and SMP-20: Automatic activation of irrigation to -20 kPa) and greenhouse characteristics (G1 and G2). The nutritive solution applied was the same in all treatments. The yield and volume of water and nutrients applied were determined, calculating the productivity of the water (WP), as well as productivity the nutrients. The fertigation activation threshold of -10 kPa presented the best results, increasing the yield and conserving WP and nutrient productivity with respect to -20 kPa in both greenhouses. The automation of irrigation with electrotensiometers allowed the application of different volume of fertigation demanded by the crop in each greenhouse, equalizing the WP and nutrient productivity without producing drainage. The pepper crop in the greenhouse G1 presented greater vegetative development, higher yield and demanded a greater volume of fertigation than G2 regardless of the activation threshold. This was due to the fact that the soil matric potential after irrigation in greenhouse G1 was closer to zero, being able to conclude that not only the soil matric potential threshold of irrigation activation has an influence on crop, but also the potential registered after irrigation. Soil matric potentials closer to zero are more productive.

Keywords: activation threshold; biomass; drainage; greenhouse; harvest index; irrigation; soil matric potential; water productivity.