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High tunnel tomato updates: varieties, pest management, nutrition, 2015

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by Steve Bogash, Horticulture Extension Educator/Researcher | Penn State University

Presented at the 2015 Minnesota Statewide High Tunnel Conference.

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High tunnel tomato updates: varieties, pest management, nutrition, 2015

  1. 1. TOMATOES: WHAT’S NEWS AND MAKING THE END OF THE SEASON WITH GREAT TOMATOES Steve Bogash Horticulture Educator / Researcher
  2. 2. Laying out a plan for the entire season • What was in the field / tunnel last season? • Preplant soil testing • What varieties have and have not worked for you? • Applying nutrients: – Regular granular – Slow release • Staying ahead of consumption curves.
  3. 3. Tomato Nutrition Problems Plus, yields less than #20 of marketable fruit per plant
  4. 4. Defining Terms • Soil pH – pH = potential of hydrogen – Greatly affects the availability of nutrients – Relative acidity / alkalinity – pH of 7 is considered neutral – Tomatoes grow best at 6.2-6.5 – Logarithmic scale – Test both soil and irrigation water • We often add acid(s) to irrigation water
  5. 5. Additional important terms • Sufficiency: Moving target that varies from carrying a crop to carrying a profitable crop. Usually expressed as a percentage. • Deficiency: Not enough nutrient present to satisfy even the most minimal plant needs. • Toxicity: Overabundance to the point of damaging a plant or causing other nutrients to be out of balance.
  6. 6. Putting together a fertility plan • Know your soil or potting media – Regular testing by a laboratory is the only accurate tool. – Test the soil before planting – Test the soil again at the onset of flowering – How have the key nutrients changed (N, P, K, Ca and Mg) as the plants use these nutrients? – Plow down 30-50% of overall needs at bed workup. • Organic growers will want to plow down 60-80% why?
  7. 7. Know your water • Test water 1st use for: – pH* – Alkalinity* – N, P & K – Clogging particulates – Fe • Regularly test for pH and Alkalinity • Well vs. Spring vs. Stream vs. Pond
  8. 8. Stages of a tomatoes life • Planting - Rapid increase in vegetative mass • 1st flowering – Flower bud initiation begin heavy K drop • This is prior to you seeing the first buds • Development of fruit – P drops rapidly as fruit begin to size • Ripening of fruit • Continued development of flowers and fruit (indeterminate plants only***) • Determinate types 2nd fruiting potential
  9. 9. Seedling fertility program • No fertilizer at seeding • First true leaves: 75-100 ppm N balanced • 4-6 weeks: 100-150 ppm N • 6-8 weeks: 150 ppm N • 8 weeks: transplant and test
  10. 10. Early (vegetative) Growth • 20-20-20 or 20-10-20 up until initiation of flowers. • 3-4-3 fish-based fertilizer is the same • Plant tissue analysis at first flower. • Tissue analysis: – 10-15 whole leaves – Collect from average plants – Collect 4-5th leaf from top • Most recent mature leaf – Paper bags only! – Overnight or pickup – Take leaf below top flower cluster on determinate types.
  11. 11. Nutrition at flowering (two weeks prior) • Plant tissue analysis • Adjust fertility program to 3-4K+ / 1N • Bring Ca to 100% sufficiency • Adjust Mg to Ca by using a ratio of 2-4 Ca to 1 Mg. • K+ needs to be above 3% by dry matter
  12. 12. Plant maintenance • Monitor N, K+, P, Ca & Mg levels • Monitor irrigation water pH weekly – With hydroponic systems, monitor daily or constantly • Weather considerations – Day length – Relative sun / cloud cover – Day / night temperature variations • Creating high quality fruit requires careful irrigating.
  13. 13. Most growers primary packout challenge:
  14. 14. How much fertilizer? • Apply #.5 (minimum) actual N / acre / day to 1.5 acre tomatoes. We’re using 20-20-20. Applied every other day. • .5 x 1.5 = .75 (fertilizer for the area / day) • .75 x 2 = 1.5 (N needed over 2 days) • 1.5 / .2 = #7.5 (amount of 20-20-20) every 2 days • This could have been solved in almost any order and still gotten to #7.5.
  15. 15. More fertilizer math • Let’s work with 9-15-30 – Still use #.5 / acre actual N and same size field (1.5A) – #.5 x 1.5 = .75 (Actual N for field per day) – .75 x 2 = 1.5 (N needed over 2 days) – 1.5 / .09 = #16.7 of 9-15-30 every 2 days – If N is still high (above 4%) at next tissue test, one option is to change to 8-16-42 (KSC-Timac).
  16. 16. My tunnel standards • BrandyBoy • Scarlet Red • Primo Red • Red Bounty • Red Deuce • Red Mountain Primo Red
  17. 17. Nutrition at flowering • Plant tissue analysis • Adjust fertility program to 3-4K / 1N • Bring Ca to 100% sufficiency • Adjust Mg to Ca by using a ratio of 2-4 Ca to 1 Mg. • K+ needs to be above 3% by dry matter – I refer to this as chasing potassium • Nutrients: 9-15-30 (Miller Nutrichem)or 8-16- 42 (Timac) plus Nutri K (Potassium Carbonate) or 4-10-40 foliarly – We increased drip irrigated nutrients weekly based on tissue tests and often still fall behind.
  18. 18. What are we doing to keep up? • Plow down of aragonite (approximately 38% Ca) at soil prep – Good source of slow Ca release • Plow down of green potash (15% K) at soil prep – This may be the trick to keeping K levels up – This practice worked well in 2012, 2013 & 2014 • Foliar applications of Ca, Mg and K as needed – Synergism between foliar K and soil K • Ca is non mobile in plant – What does this mean for nutrient application? • Mg must be there with Ca – Epsom salts at soil prep at #30-100 / acre
  19. 19. More on Ca • Since it is non-mobile: – Must always be in solution – Tissue analysis is Monday AM refereeing for Ca – Constant application necessary or • Aragonite – Since Ca is actually Ca++, you must use chelated forms foliarly. • Formulation matters in getting nutrients past the cuticle or through the stomata
  20. 20. More on Mg • Must be in solution in a 3/1 ratio with Ca. • Mg SO4 (epsom salts) are great for soil preparation, but lousy for in-season immediate fixes. • Look for MagSi, MgO, Mg Citrate, or Magical
  21. 21. Getting your Potash numbers up • Along with applying enough – Your soil solution pH must be between 6.2 and 6.5 – Potash availability drops quickly outside of this range – Start early and stay with an aggressive program. • Getting it there: – Inject sulfuric acid whenever irrigating or fertigating – Organic alternative: Citric acid – You must work with a calibrated pH meter
  22. 22. Some notes of phosphorus consumption • Through tissue testing we’ve noted a precipitous drop in P levels immediately after the first fruit set. – Combining 12-48-8 with 9-15-30 for 2-3 weeks has brought our tissue tests back into the sufficiency zone. – Not sure what specific effect these low P levels have on plant yield, but overall vigor is immediately evident in bringing levels up.
  23. 23. Where does soil biology fit into this discussion? • Higher levels of active fungi make a huge difference in nutrient uptake by plant roots. – Bacteria too, but to a lessor extent than fungi. – Specific type of fungi makes a huge difference • Most commonly mycorrhizal types. • Trichoderma spp. have similar effects to mycorrhizae • All organic matter is not created equally – Carbon / Nitrogen (C/N) ratio matters • Very high C / N ratio will use much of the N to degrade the carbon.
  24. 24. Disease management in a tomato tunnel • Challenges: – Septoria leaf spot – Late Blight – Bacterial Canker – Leaf Mold – Powdery Mildew (late season)
  25. 25. My nimble management program: • Mancozeb or Regalia-based until first harvest is in sight. • Then Regalia-based due to mancozeb 5 day PHI • Basic program: – Day 1: Regalia – Day 5: Actinovate AG – Day 10: Stimplex or other biostimulant – Day 15: start over
  26. 26. Upping the ante’ • Regalia + copper, then Actinovate AG + Stimplex on 7 day schedule. • Add in B.subtillus product for enhanced PM and LM control. • Regalia + Ranman, Curzate, Tanos, or P. Flex for enhanced LB management. • Inject Regalia + GreenStim + Actigard foliarly for enhanced bacteria mgt.
  27. 27. Our goal
  28. 28. THANK YOU YOUR QUESTIONS PLEASE! Steve Bogash Horticulture Educator smb13@psu.edu 717-240-6500 ext 6507

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