NEGEV, ISRAEL--As consumer demand for year-round fresh produce increases, vegetable and fruit producers are facing significant environmental and sustainability issues, and are being challenged to examine traditional production practices in order to improve product quality while limiting environmental impact. A recent focus on both the positive and negative effects of nitrogen applications has researchers across the globe working to find methods that can increase crops' "nitrogen use efficiency" (NUE) to contribute to more sustainable, responsible agricultural practices. A study published in HortScience contains strategies for increasing NUE in greenhouse bell peppers, and demonstrates how the environmental impact of intensive agriculture can be minimized without harming fruit yield or quality.
Nitrogen, the most important and widely used agricultural nutrient, is also a major environmental contaminant. In many regions increased levels of nitrate found in groundwater have been attributed to the high rates of nitrogen fertilizer applied to surrounding crops. But sufficient nitrogen--an integral part of protein and chloroplast structure and function in plants--is essential for plant growth and development. According to Hagai Yasuor of the Gilat Research Center in Negev, nitrogen deficiency has been studied on the majority of horticultural crops, but the effects of an oversupply of nitrogen are not as widely understood. Yasuor and colleagues designed a study to investigate ways to reduce environmental pollution by increasing nitrogen use efficiency in vegetables without negatively affecting fruit yield or quality.
The scientists used bell pepper (Capsicum annum L.) in a case study for intensive vegetable cropping. "Pepper production is becoming commercially important in various regions of the world, including Israel, Spain, southern Europe, and north Africa, where the crop is grown from fall to spring in greenhouses and net houses,"
|Contact: Mike W. Neff|
American Society for Horticultural Science