Beitr. Tabakforsch. Int./Contrib. Tob. Research, 2004, 21-4, p. 223-33., ISSN.0173-783X

Effect of water regime and nitrogen fertilisation on growth dynamics, water status and yield of Burley tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum L.)

University of Naples ''Federico II'', Dept. of Agricultural Engineering and Agronomy, Portici, Naples, Italy.
The results of a two-year research project into burley tobacco are reported and discussed. Three irrigation levels (40, 80 and 120% restitution of evapotranspiration (ET)) were factorially combined with four levels of nitrogen fertilisation (0, 80, 160 and 240 kg ha -1 ). Leaf area, leaf and stem dry matter and root development were measured. We monitored the water status of the 0-90 cm soil layer, the plants and stomatal resistance. Relations were also studied between leaf turgor pressure and plant growth, between the irrigation regime and plant water status, and between root and shoot development. Finally, water use efficiency (WUE) and quality and quantity of cured leaves yields were evaluated. Nitrogen fertilisation did not affect plant water status, although it promoted plant growth, both in terms of leaf area and leaf and stem dry matter, and induced a yield increase in quantity and quality. Our trial showed little interaction between nitrogen fertilization level and water regime. Under such agronomic condition, the margins for increasing plant growth with nitrogen fertilization are limited, which is why application of nitrogen rates in excess of 160 kg ha-1 appear inadvisable. The difference in irrigation volumes led to a different soil water content which affected plant water status, stomatal functioning, plant growth, both in the roots and shoots, yield and quality of the cured leaves. The latter did not vary with the increase in water volume, while yield increased. Water use efficiency increased as the irrigation volume decreased and varied during the cropping cycle, increasing until early bloom, then decreasing. Relations between leaf turgor pressure and plant growth highlighted the different response of plants subjected to water stress compared with non-stressed plants.