Growth dynamics and yield of melon as influenced by nitrogen fertilizer

Abstract: Nitrogen (N) is an important nutrient for melon (Cucumis melo L.) production. However there is scanty information about the amount necessary to maintain an appropriate balance between growth and yield. Melon vegetative organs must develop sufficiently to intercept light and accumulate water and nutrients but it is also important to obtain a large reproductive-vegetative dry weight ratio to maximize the fruit yield. We evaluated the influence of different N amounts on the growth, production of dry matter and fruit yield of a melon ‘Piel de sapo’ type. A three-year field experiment was carried out from May to September. Melons were subjected to an irrigation depth of 100% crop evapotranspiration and to 11 N fertilization rates, ranging 11 to 393 kg ha–1 in the three years. The dry matter production of leaves and stems increased as the N amount increased. The dry matter of the whole plant was affected similarly, while the fruit dry matter decreased as the N amount was increased above 112, 93 and 95 kg ha–1, in 2005, 2006 and 2007, respectively. The maximum Leaf Area Index (LAI), 3.1, was obtained at 393 kg ha–1 of N. The lowest N supply reduced the fruit yield by 21%, while the highest increased the vegetative growth, LAI and Leaf Area Duration (LAD), but reduced yield by 24% relative to the N93 treatment. Excessive applications of N increase vegetative growth at the expense of reproductive growth. For this melon type, rates about 90-100 kg ha–1 of N are sufficient for adequate plant growth, development and maximum production. To obtain fruit yield close to the maximum, the leaf N concentration at the end of the crop cycle should be higher than 19.5 g kg–1. Key words: LAI, LAD, dry matter accumulation, production functions, leaf nitrogen concentration.

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