Providing and maintaining proper plant nutrition is a key to successfully growing vegetable crops. Too much fertilizer, though sometimes not harmful to the crop, can be economically detrimental to the farm’s bottom line.
Also, over applying fertilizers does not follow state guidelines for vegetable production best management practices (BMPs). These BMPs are designed to protect Florida’s groundwater.
Correct amounts and types of nutrients will be utilized efficiently by the plant and will maximize yields. This practice avoids unnecessary fertilizer costs.
A nutritional management plan for vegetable crop operation begins with a soil analysis. Understanding the nutrients already in the soil will help a producer understand which nutrients need supplementation during the growing season. A producer’s soil analysis by the UF/IFAS Extension Soil Testing Laboratory can include standard soil analysis (pH, lime requirement, P, K, Ca, and Mg), soil micronutrients, organic material, and EC (Electrical Conductivity). Click here for a producers soil analysis form.
When the soil analysis results are returned, refer to the UF/IFAS Vegetable Production Handbook for a course of action. This publication is updated annually and provides fertilizer, disease, and insect management recommendations for most vegetable crops grown in Florida..
Nutrition management should be managed differently during the growing season. Nutrients should be monitored in the plant material rather than in the soil.
A effective way of accomplishing this is through a plant petiole sap test. Nitrate and Potassium levels can be measured through these procedures. Complete information on how to do petiole sap testing can be found here: Plant Petiole Sap-Testing For Vegetable Crops.