Fertigation in fruit tree production
Drip fertilization or fertigation is the fastest and most efficient way to provide plants the nutrients with water. It gives an opportunity to the precise dose of nutrients around the root system. It also allows you to quickly modify the doses of fertilization taking into account the growth phases of plant and weather conditions.
In the farm of Anne and Richard Nowakowski “Arno”, 650 ha, hundreds of thousands fruit trees are produced yearly, as well as over 1.000.000 rootstocks for grafting. The Arno Farm was founded in 1987. Mayor crop is apples (80%), plus cherries and pears. With such an intensive production fertigation is crucial. The owner, Mr. Richard Nowakowski, is a supporter of fertigation and agreed to answer to some of our questions. Please find attached a testimonial from ICL Poland on the Arno farm. With 660 ha this is one of the largest fruit tree nurseries in Europe. Yearly they produce approx. 600,000 fruit trees, as well as 1,000,000 vegetative and 300,000 generative rootstocks.
Since when you apply fertilizer using fertigation?
Since 3 years, fertigation is the fundamental way of fertilization on our farm, of course, next to topdressing with NPK granulars and foliar spraying, which is still limited. Fertigation allows us to systematically and continuously control the quantities of nutrients. Everyone who thinks of production on a high standard should consider the possibility of creating a system of fertigation, especially when production is on light sandy soils, on which plants are not able to collect large stocks of nutrients and water.
How do you deal in the nursery with difficult weather conditions?
By using fertigation we have produced good quality nursery stock this year, although it was a very difficult year. May and June were very wet, while July was exceptionally dry. During drought there is always much easier because we can reduce the concentration the nutrient and steer it on a regular base. Much harder to during excessive rain, when the machines cannot drive into the nursery, and the plants can be nourish only with short applications, giving them all the necessary mineral components. It was the biggest success of fertigation in such a difficult year.
What fertilizers do you use for fertigation?
In my nursery I use ICL fertilizers for fertigation - Solinure GT.
The basic criteria for the selection of these products next to excellent solubility and purity of raw materials and a positive response to the fertilizer plants, it is also trust the company and their representatives. I am not looking for something different, because these products have been already checked.
In fertigation water is very important, what kind of water you use?
Water quality is important not only for fertigation, but also for other agronomic treatments like chemical sprayings on the farm. Therefore, together with an analysis of the soil we do a detailed analysis of the water. In the nursery, for fertigation we use hard water with a pH > 7.5. To reduce the pH we use phosphoric acid or nitric acid, depending on the stage of growth of plants and their nutritional requirements.
How often do you perform a soil analysis?
A detailed analysis of the soil is standard on the farm. Before any new plantings we carry out all the tests. Only on this basis we determine the fertilizer program. Permanent cooperation with the Horticulture Institute allows to the development the optimal doses of fertilizer, depend on the current condition of the plants and the weather conditions. During the whole growing season, we monitor the soil moisture and amount of nutrients, and the overall condition of the plants. Observation is an extremely important part of the crops.
Do you apply other products for fertigation?
This year, for the first time we used a new fertilizer Solinure FX. There are products with acidifying effects. After this introduction into crops we observe improved plant health and better growth. All the trees are aligned, although in previous years there have been places where tree growth was much weaker. In this season we did not notice this. This year, the vegetation is more rapidly even though there was a lot of extreme weather. Despite the excessive amount of rainfall in May and June and drought in July - we were able to get a good nursery stock.
In addition to the nutrient solution did you apply foliar feed fertilization?
While the fertigation is the ideal and quick way to provide plants all essential nutrients we still use topdressing with NPK granulars. Topdressing, foliar feed and drip fertigation need to work together. Each of these methods of fertilization has their advantages and disadvantages and it is our goal that interaction of these three methods is the most optimal for plants. A very important part of the nutrient program is foliar fertilization because of rapidly supplemented nutrients when deficiencies occur. Nutrients given via the leaves are ten times and even thirty times faster retrieved than those provided by the roots, and their effects are visible immediately after application. In my nursery for many years we use foliar fertilizers - Agroleaf Power. They are really good products, and the effect is visible immediately. A perfect example is part of the plantation of Wangenheim Plum, where accidentally in two rows we did not spray. The difference is very clear, the plants after application of Agroleaf Power are almost twice as high, than those in the rows where it has not been applied. This confirms the reason of the application of these fertilizers.