U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


Document Type


Date of this Version



Fluid Forum, February 14-16, 2010, Scottsdale, AZ


Advances in understanding plant physiology and nutrient requirements now allow growers to supply crops with sufficient nutrients to optimize growth and yield. However, for certain high value horticultural crops, fertilizer requirements for optimum yields often differ from the requirements for quality traits such as taste, flavor, texture and shelf‐life. Timing of fertilizer application, as well as soil and plant factors, are also critical in quality considerations. Currently, there are no nutrient management guidelines for optimizing produce quality even though certain nutrient elements such as potassium (K) are known to influence quality development. Information on nutrient uptake and removal amounts is useful in developing fertility recommendations for crops with different nutrient requirements and quality standards. In this study, leaf, stem and fruit tissues of muskmelons (Cucumis melo L. var ‘Cruiser’) were sampled from fields differing in soil type and analyzed to calculate nutrient removal amounts. There were little differences in the concentration of major nutrients (N, P, K) in plant tissues (leaves, stems) during vegetative development. However after fruit set, the concentration of these nutrients was significantly reduced as developing fruits became sinks for these nutrient. Differences were also observed in tissue nutrient concentrations among the sampling sites and this was coincident with soil type; tissues sampled from sites with heavy soils tended to have higher nutrient concentrations than those from sites with light textured soils. Fruit yields ranged from 9‐13 t∙acre‐1 and was greater in the heavy textured sites. Estimates of nutrient removal amounts ranged from 18‐38 lbs N/acre, 3‐6 lbs P/acre, and 35‐80 lbs K/acre and varied significantly among sites. Exceptionally dry weather conditions during the 2009 growing season potentially affected the uptake and accumulation patterns of these nutrients since fruit yields were also generally lower than average. Data collected over multiple years under different weather conditions, soil types and yield scenarios will be needed to establish realistic nutrient removal values that can be used to develop fertilizer application guidelines aimed at improving fruit quality.