Precision Horticulture: Application of Optical Sensor Technology for Nitrogen Monitoring Status in Cocoplum, a Native Landscaping Plant

Plants (Basel). 2023 Feb 8;12(4):760. doi: 10.3390/plants12040760.


Cocoplum (Chrysobalanus icaco) is an ecologically significant native species to Southern Florida. Application of precision agriculture technologies such as optical sensors reduces the cost of over-fertilization and nutrient runoff. The aim of this work was to establish a base line sensor value for fertilizer treatment in cocoplum by monitoring chlorophyll content using the Soil Plant Analytical Development (SPAD), atLEAF, and Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) sensors. Initial slow-released fertilizer treatment 8N-3P-9K was used at 15 g (control), 15 g (supplemented with +15 g × 2; T1), 15 g (+15 g; T2), 30 g (+15 g × 2; T3), 30 g (+15 g; T4), and 45 g (+15 g × 2; T5). Evaluations were conducted at 0 (base reading), 30, 60, 90, 120, 150, and 180 days after treatment. Growth parameters, optical non-destructive chlorophyll meters, leaf and soil total nitrogen and total carbon, and total nitrogen of leachate were analyzed. The results demonstrated that the treatment using 30 g slow-released fertilizer (8N-3P-9K) supplemented twice with 15 g in November and March after the first fertilization in October provided the least contamination through runoff while still providing adequate nutrients for plant growth compared to higher fertilizer concentrations. These results demonstrate that the highest treatment of nitrogen can cause considerable losses of N, causing extra costs to producers and environmental damage due to the flow of nutrients. Thus, techniques that help in N monitoring to avoid the excessive use of nitrogen fertilization are necessary. This study can serve as a basis for future research and for nurseries and farms, since it demonstrated from the monitoring of the chlorophyll content by optical sensors and by foliar and substrate analysis that lower treatments of nitrogen fertilization are sufficient to provide nutrients suitable for the growth of cocoplum plants.

Keywords: best management practices; environmental horticulture; fertilization; precision horticulture; water pollution.