Real-time, on-farm soil monitoring methods for in-season management of fertigation in vegetable crop protected cultivation systems

A. Blunk, F. Di Gioia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Protected cultivation can provide benefits to crop yields and quality however these benefits are contingent upon proper management of soil health and fertility. The implementation of in-season soil monitoring could be a useful practice to track the changes of soil health indicators throughout the growing season and allow growers to adjust the fertilization program in real time, while preserving soil health. A study was conducted, in 2021, to evaluate the ability of two simple on-farm soil monitoring methods, and multiple hand-held electrodes, to track changes in soil pH, electrical conductivity (EC) and nitrate level throughout the tomato crop growing season. The test crop was fertilized via fertigation and received four levels of nitrogen (N): 0 (N0), 84 (N1), 168 (N2) and 336 (N3) kg ha-1 of N. Every two weeks, soil solution samples of each plot were collected using both suction lysimeters and the Sonneveld's 1:2 v:v soil-water extraction method. Collected samples were analyzed using hand-held pH, EC, and nitrate sensors. Results indicated that in-season changes in soil pH, EC and nitrate levels could be measured when using both the 1:2 v:v soil-water extraction method and suction lysimeter soil solution sampling technique. Monitoring the soil solution throughout the growing season allowed to detect excess of N associated with the highest levels of N fertilization which correlated positively with high levels of EC. While further research is needed to validate the use of portable ion-selective electrode sensors, the soil-water extraction method seems ideal to monitor directly on-farm the level of nutrients readily available to the plant and adjust the fertilization program during the growing season.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)793-799
Number of pages7
JournalActa Horticulturae
StatePublished - Jan 1 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Horticulture

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