Effects of Substrate Salinity and Nutrient Levels on Physiological Response, Yield, and Fruit Quality of Habanero Pepper
Urrea López, Rafael
Díaz de la Garza, Rocío I.
Valiente Banuet, Juan I.
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Although habanero peppers (Capsicum chinense, Jacq.) are highly appreciated as a result of their organoleptic and pungency properties, the crop faces edaphic stresses throughout Mexico. A study was conducted to determine how the photosynthetic parameters, vegetative growth, yield, and fruit quality of the plant change in response to suboptimal conditions in the substrate. Habanero plants were grown in an inert substrate (perlite) and exposed to increased salinity levels (4 and 7 dS·m−1) and reduced nitrogen and phosphorus conditions. Plants grown with a Hoagland-based solution were used as controls. High salinity conditions reduced the light-saturated photosynthetic rates (64% of the control) but did not compromise yield or fruit quality. This effect was possibly the result of the addition of Ca2+, which reduced salinity-induced calcium deficiency. Although comparable low nitrogen levels in previous studies were shown to cause a severe reduction in plant viability, in our study, low nitrogen reduced the light-saturated photosynthetic rates (47% of the control) and shoot:root ratio (67% of the control) but did not significantly affect yield or fruit quality. Low nitrogen and 7-dS·m−1 treatments increased fructose and glucose content (increases of 27% and 21%, respectively). Low phosphorus significantly affected plant growth and yield and reduced fructose content (73% of the control). Plants were not sensitive to low nitrogen and high salinity, possibly as a result of the use of nitrate-based fertilizers and the addition of calcium, respectively. These results provide guidelines for habanero pepper production under suboptimal edaphic conditions.