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Effect of El Nino-Southern Oscillation on the number of leaching rain events in Florida and implications on nutrient management for tomato
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Most of the winter vegetable production in the southeastern United States is located in Florida. High-value vegetable crops are grown under intensive fertilization and irrigation management practices using drip, overhead, or seepage irrigation systems. Rainfall events may raise the water table in fields irrigated by seepage irrigation resulting in leaching of nutrients when the level is lowered to remove excess water. The objective of this study was to assess the effect of El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phases on rainfall distribution and leaching rain occurrences during the fall, winter, and spring tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) growing seasons using long-term weather records available for main producing areas. Differences in fall growing season mean precipitation during El Nino, La Nina, and neutral years were found to be nonsignificant. Winter and spring mean precipitations during El Nino, La Nina, and neutral years were found to be significantly different. Winter and spring average rainfall amounts during La Nina and neutral years were lower than during El Nino years. During El Nino years, at least one leaching rainfall event of 1.0 inch or more in 1 day occurred at all locations and all planting seasons and two of these events occurred in more than 9 of 10 years except during the winter and spring planting seasons at the Tamiami Trail station located in Miami-Dade County. During the fall growing season of El Nino years, three to four 1.0 inch or more in 1-day leaching rainfalls may be expected at least 4 of 5 years at all locations. In the case of larger leaching rainfall events (3.0 inches or more recorded in 3 days or 4.0 inches or more recorded in 7 days), the probability of having at least one event was mostly less than 0.80. Based on these results, nitrogen fertilizer supplemental applications of 30 to 120 lb/acre could be applied during the fall growing season of all ENSO phases and during all planting seasons of El Nino years. Using current fertilizer prices, one supplemental fertilizer application of 30 lb/acre nitrogen and 16.6 lb/acre potassium costs $55/acre. Assuming a median wholesale price of $12 per 25-lb box, this additional cost may be offset by a modest yield increase of 4.6 boxes/acre (compared with a typical 2500 25-lb box/acre marketable yield). These results suggest that ENSO phases could be used to predict supplemental fertilizer needs for tomato, but adjustments to local weather conditions may be needed.
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 Record created 2010-03-17, last modified 2019-07-02

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