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  Eur.J.Hortic.Sci. 80 (5) 231-239 | DOI: 10.17660/eJHS.2015/80.5.5
ISSN 1611-4426 print and 1611-4434 online | © ISHS 2015 | European Journal of Horticultural Science | Original article

Interaction of 3D soil electrical conductivity and generative growth in Prunus domestica L

J. Käthner1 and M. Zude-Sasse,1,2
1Leibniz Institute for Agricultural Engineering Potsdam-Bornim, Potsdam, Germany
2Beuth University of Applied Sciences Berlin, Berlin, Germany

Characterizing spatial soil heterogeneity within orchards may provide an approach for precise, more sustainable production processes. In predominantly sandy soil, which was formed by glacial and post-glacial deposits, generative growth of plum trees (Prunus domestica ‘Tophit plus’, n=156) were closely analyzed (flower set, fruit set, fruit drop, fruit size, fruit pigments, and yield), and classified according to the apparent electrical conductivity (ECa) of the soil in three depths (topsoil, root zone, subsoil). The soil ECa showed small scale variability between 1.3 mS m-1 and 76.7 mS m-1 with stable pattern for two years (R=0.88). The ECa in different depths corresponded to compaction profile and water content of the sandy soil. The ECa in the root zone correlated to tree growth. However, the ECa of topsoil and elevation (slope = 3.15°) of the terrain had a similar or enhanced impact. The ECa in topsoil and elevation were correlated with fruit set at r=0.17 (p=0.011) and r=-0.45 (p=0.133), and fruit size at r=0.06 (p<0.001) and r=0.05 (p<0.001) respectively. Such findings are particularly interesting for orchards showing elevation gradient or soil compaction from mechanical weed control.

Keywords electrical conductivity, fruit, plum, precision fruticulture, spatial variability

Significance of this study

What is already known on this subject?

  • The concept of precision agriculture has been introduced in horticulture only recently. A deeper look into the interaction of generative growth of fruit trees and spatially measured soil properties is missing.
What are the new findings?
  • Positive correlation was found between the soil ECa and generative tree growth in two years and planting ages, with enhanced interaction in older trees. Furthermore, the slope of the present orchard and soil compaction due to mechanical weed control, influenced the root zone environment. Consequently, we can provide a better insight of correlations of tree growth and soil ECa.
What is the expected impact on horticulture?
  • Precision fruticulture may potentially lead to better use of resources and, therefore, more efficient production.

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Received: 9 December 2014 | Revised: 17 March 2015 | Accepted: 19 May 2015 | Published: 23 October 2015 | Available online: 23 October 2015

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