IPI International Potash Institute
IPI International Potash Institute

Scientific abstracts

Impact of Organic and Inorganic Fertilizers on Yield, Taste, and Nutritional Quality of Tomatoes
Anuschka Heeb, Bengt Lundegårdh, Geoffrey Savage and Tom Ericsson
Published in:
J. Plant Nutr. Soil Sci. 169(4):535-541 (2006), English


In a greenhouse experiment, tomato plants were grown in sand culture to test whether different fertilization regimes (mineral or organic fertilizers) at low (500 mg N plant-1 week-1) and high (750 mg N plant-1 week-1) nitrogen levels affected yield, nutritional quality, and taste of the fruits. In the mineral-fertilizer treatments, nitrate- or ammonium-dominated nutrient solutions were used. Organic fertilizer was supplied as fresh cut grass-clover mulch (a total of 2.4 kg and 3.6 kg were given per plant at low and high N level, respectively) without (org N) and with additional sulfur fertilization (org N+S). Yields of red tomatoes from the organically fertilized plants were significantly lower (1.3-1.8 kg plant-1) than yields from plants that received mineral fertilizer (2.2-2.8 kg plant-1). At the final harvest, yields of green tomatoes in the organic treatment with extra sulfur were similar (1.1-1.2 kg plant-1) to the NO-dominated treatments at both nutrient levels and the NH-dominated treatment at high nutrient level. Organic fertilizers released nutrients more slowly than mineral fertilizers, resulting in decreased S and P concentrations in the leaves, which limited growth and yield in the org N treatments. Analysis of tomato fruits and plants as well as taste-test results gave no conclusive answer on the relationship between sugar or acid contents in the fruits, macronutrient content of plant leaves and fruits, and perceived taste. Sugar contents were higher in the fruits given mineral fertilizer, whereas acid contents were higher in the fruits given organic fertilizer. Preference in taste was given to the tomatoes from plants fertilized with the nitrate-dominated nutrient solution and to those given organic fertilizer with extra sulfur. Thus, a reduction in growth, which was expected to lead to a higher concentration of compounds like sugars and acids, did not result in better taste. Overall, it can be concluded that an appropriate nutrient supply is crucial to reach high yields and good taste.

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