Concurrent Evaluation of Agronomic, Economic, and Environmental Aspects of Trickle-Irrigated Watermelon Production
- J. W. Pier and
- T. A. Doerge *
Reducing application rates of water and N fertilizers in irrigated cropping systems can lower the potential for N losses, but increases economic risk to producers. A data normalization method and an abstract spatial analysis procedure examined yield, net economic return and unaccounted for N from a subsurface, trickle-irrigated watermelon [Citrullus lanatus (Thumb.) Matsum. & Nakai] cropping system in southern Arizona as a function of N and water inputs. Field research was conducted on a Casa Grande sandy loam (fine-loamy, mixed, hyperthermic Typic Natrargid). A factorial design consisting of four levels of N (60, 216, 315, and 500 kg N ha−1) and three average soil water tensions (4, 7, and 17 kPa) resulted in a yield response surface. Watermelon marketable value and costs of water and N inputs were estimated to determine a net return response surface. A N mass balance was calculated by the difference method to estimate post harvest unaccounted for fertilizer N. Predicted maximum marketable yield was 102 Mg ha−1 at 7.2 kPa tension and 336 kg N ha−1. Predicted maximum net return was $10 819 ha−1 at 10.2 kPa tension and 256 kg applied N ha−1. Predicted maximum unaccounted for N was 300 kg N ha−1 at 4 kPa tension and 500 kg applied N ha−1. Normalization and summation of yield, net return and unaccounted for N response variables resulted in a predicted optimum response at 12.6 kPa and 178 kg N ha−1. The combined response variable was within 95% of this maximum value across the range of 10 to 16 kPa tension and 60 to 300 kg applied N ha−1. Similarly, spatial analysis of the three response variables indicated 7 to 17 kPa tension and 60 to 315 kg applied N ha−1 would result in yield and net return of >95% of the calculated maxima of marketable yield and net return, while limiting calculated NO−3-N concentration in soil water draining below the root zone to <10 mg NO−3-N L−1. These results suggest that data normalization and abstract spatial analysis are useful in concurrent evaluation of agronomic, economic, and environmental production criteria for subsurface trickle-irrigated watermelon.Please view the pdf by using the Full Text (PDF) link under 'View' to the left.
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