The Effect of Environment and Nutrients on Hydroponic Lettuce Yield, Quality, and Phytonutrients
North Mississippi Research and Extension Center, Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, Mississippi State University, Verona, MS 38879, USA
Department of Plant Sciences, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Horticulturae 2018, 4(4), 48; https://doi.org/10.3390/horticulturae4040048
Received: 3 October 2018 / Revised: 12 November 2018 / Accepted: 20 November 2018 / Published: 28 November 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Abiotic Stress Effects on Performance of Horticultural Crops)
A study was conducted with green and red-leaf lettuce cultivars grown in a deep-water culture production system. Plants were seeded in rockwool and germinated under greenhouse conditions at 25/20 °C (day/night) for 21 days before transplanting. The experimental design was a randomized complete block with a 2 × 3 factorial arrangement of cultivar and nutrient treatments that consisted of six replications. Treatments consisted of two lettuce genotypes, (1) green (Winter Density) and (2) red (Rhazes), and three nutrient treatments containing electroconductivity (EC) levels of (1) 1.0; (2) 2.0; and (3) 4.0 mS·cm−1. After 50 days, plants were harvested, processed, and analyzed to determine marketable yield, biomass, plant height, stem diameter, phenolics, and elemental nutrient concentrations. An interaction between growing season and lettuce cultivar was the predominant factor influencing yield, biomass, and quality. Nutrient solution EC treatment significantly affected biomass and water content. EC treatments significantly impacted concentrations of 3-O-glucoside and uptake of phosphorous, potassium, iron, boron, zinc, and molybdenum. Effects of growing season and cultivar on leafy lettuce yield and quality were more pronounced than the effect of nutrient solution EC treatment. Thus, greenhouse production of green and red-leaf lettuce cultivars in the south-eastern United States should be conducted in the spring and fall growing seasons with elevated nutrient solution EC of ≈4.0 mS·cm−1 to maximize yield and quality.