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Electrical conductivity effect on


growth and mineral composition
of lettuce plants in hydroponic
system

Article in Acta horticulturae December 1996


DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.1996.434.6

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ELECTRICAL CONDUCTIVITY EFFECT ON GROWTH AND MINERAL
COMPOSITION OF LETTUCE PLANTS IN HYDROPONIC SYSTEM

A.F. Abou-Hadidl, E.M.Abd-Elmoniem2, M.Z. El-Shinawy- , M. Abou-Elsoud!


IHort. Dept., Faculty of Agriculture, Ain Shams University, Shobra EI-Khima, Cairo,
~~ . .
2Soils Dept., Faculty of Agriculture, Ain Shams University, Shobra EI-Khima, Cairo,
Egypt

Abstract

A study was conducted with lettuce plant. Three varieties (Tom Thumb, Paris Island and
Ice Queen) were grown for 2 seasons in hydroponic experiment. The electrical
conductivity of nutrient solution was maintained at values 1.0, 1.5 and 1.8 mmhos/cm,
respectively. Fresh weight and mineral composition (N, P, K, Zn, Mn, Fe and Cu) were
investigated. Fresh weight production of the three lettuce varieties decreased with
increasing EC level of the nutrient solution. The mineral composition of lettuce plants
was influenced with different EC levels and the varieties used. This study suggested that
Paris Island is the best variety in terms of quality and quantity production under
hydroponic system.

1. Introduction

Electrical conductivity (EC) of nutrient solution is one of the most factors which affect
the success of the hydroponic systems. So, many researchers studied this factor. Steiner
(1980) reported that extended use of the same nutrient solution may result in
accumulation of toxic quantities of micro elements such as zinc and copper from metals
in the plumbing system, fertilizer impurities, or from the water itself.
The total concentration of elements in a nutrient solution should be between 1000 and
1500 ppm, so that osmotics pressure will facilitate the absorption processes by the roots.
This should correspond to total salt conductivity reading between 1.5 and 2.3 millimhos
(mmhos). In general, the lower values (\.5-2.0 mmhos) are preferred by crops such as
cucumbers while higher values are better for tomatoes (2.5-3.5 mmhos) (Resh, 1989).
Also, Cresswell (1991) grown lettuce plant using the nutrient film technique (Nf-T) in
a complete nutrient solution. The auther found that the best EC level of nutrient solution
for lettuce plant was 2.0 ds/m.
In the present work, an experiment was conducted to assess the effect of EC level of
nutrient solutions on mineral composition and growth of different varieties of lettuce
plants. Moreover, this study tried to select the best lettuce variety in terms of quantity
and quality production under hydroponic system.

_. Materials and methods

The experiment was conducted in a greenhouse in two successive seasons (1992/93 -


1993/94). Seeds of lettuce varieties (Tom thumb, Paris Island Ice Queen) were
germinated in a mixture of peat moss and vermiculite (1: I v/v). The seedlings were
grown in mesh pots supported by the pot rims, in PVC channels after, approximately, 14
days from germination. Plants were spaced at 7.5 inch (19cm) within the rows (PVC)
giving 10 head per 6-foot row. 30-liters plastic container containg 25 liters of airated
nutrient solution was used for supplying two channels in which the nutrient solutions
vere recirculated. The nutrient solution composition was: Ca (N03h. 0.575; KN03,
0.331; Mg(N03h, 0.219; KH2P04, 0.0828; K2S04, 0.146(in gmlL.); Fe-EDDHA, 16;
MnS04.lOH20, 2.44; H3B03, 0.68; ZnS04.7H20, 0.176; CuS04' 5H20, 0.156 and

egies for Mark. Orient. Greenhouse Production 59


. A.F. Abou-Hadid, R.A. Jones
Hort. 434, ISHS 1996
(NH4)6 M07024, 0.148( in mglL.). The lettuce varieties were grown in 3 EC levels of
nutrient solution (1, 1.5 and 1.8 mmhos/cm.).
A randomized complete design was used with 4 replicates of each of the three
varieties grown at each EC level. The nutrient solutions were completely renewed every
6 days. The pH was maintained between 5.5 and 6.5, with either H3P04 or KOH.
After 40 days of growth, the plants were harvested and weighted. The samples were
oven dried at 70C., then ground in a blender and stored in glass vessels for elemental
analysis. Chlorophyll was measured by chlorophyll meter (Spad ). The nitrogen content
was determined by Kijeldahl's method, phosphorus colorimetrically with ammonium
molybdate, potassium with a flame photometer and Fe, Zn, Mn and Cu by atomic
absorption spectrophotometer.
The data were analyzed by analysis of variance and the treatment means were
compared by least significant difference.

3. Results

Table (1) shows the effect of EC level of nutrient solution on fresh weight of lettuce
varieties. The different EC levels had a significant effect on the three studied varieties,
the highest yield being with Paris Island the lowest yield being with Tom Thumb.
However, with increasing the EC of the nutrient solution tended to decrease relatively
the yield of the three varieties. Also, the data presented in Table (2) show that the
response of chlorophyll to different EC levels was almost nonsignificant with the studied
varieties, but the chlorophyll data variation among the varieties were significant. On the
other hand, different EC levels of nutrient solution had an influence on mineral
composition, either macro - or microelements, for the three lettuce varieties.
Table (3) shows respose of N content in the three varieties for the studied EC levels.
The results indicated that the N content was relatively different among the lettuce
varieties, but there was no significant effect by EC. treatments.
The results in Table (4) show that P% in lettuce plants increased with increasing EC
level of nutrient solution. Also, there were small differences in P% between the used
varieties.
In Table (5), its clear that the relation of K concentration in lettuce plants with both
EC levels and varieties was non significant
On the other hand, Table (6) shows that Cu concentration in lettuce plants decreased
with increasing EC level of the nutrient solution. But there was no difference among the
used varieties. -
Table (7) demonstrates differences of Zn concentration in lettuce varieties. There is
low concentration of Zn in Paris Island in comparison with those of the other studied
varieties. However, Tom Thumb had a higher concentration of Mn. While, Paris Island
had a lower concentration of Mn as shown in Table (8).
Concerning Fe concentration, its clear that their values are high in Ice Queen in
comparision with the other varieties, (Table, 9) in Ice Quen it was the highest
concentration in comparison with other varieties. In addition, Zn, Mn, and Fe
concentrations in lettuce plants decreased with increasing EC level of the nutrient
solution.

4. Di cussion

With increasing EC level of the nutrient solution the fresh weight of the three lettuce
varietie was decreaced. Similar trend was obtained by Charbonneau et al. (1988) who
reported that increasing the EC resulted in decrease the vegetative growth of tomato.
Thi result may be interpreted according to Ehret and Ho (1986) who mentioned that at
high alinity both the uptake of water by plants and the accumulation of water by plants
were reduced. The highest yield of Paris Island possibly due to the difference of genetic
characteristics for this variety in comparison with ones. These differences may in part be
related to levels of chlorophyll (Table, 2) for each variety where Paris Island had the

60
highest values of chlorophyll. Generally, the chlorophyll values in all varieties did not
response to the EC levels used.
On the other hand, the used EC levels of nutrient solutions and variation of used
varieties had a little effect on mineral compsition of lettuce plants for some nutrients
such as N, P and K. However, microelements in lettuce plants were affected by EC
levels and the varieties. Both Zn and Fe concentration in all varieties decreased with an
increase in EC levels while Mn concentration, in contrast, increased possibly due to
interaction or competition among the ions in the nutrient solutions particularly with
increasing EC level. Chaudhry and loneragan (1972) reported that copper inhibited zinc
absorption strongly, while iron and manganese had no effect on zinc uptake. 'Phosphate
has been shown to inhibite zinc uptake, though this appears to be a translocation effect
rather than effect on zinc uptake via competition at the plasma membrane (Olson, 1972;
Cogliatti et al. 1991 and El-Sharawy et al. 1994)
There are variations among the varieties of lettuce in accumulation of nutrient
elements in leaves tissues, particularly micronutrients. High levels of elements were
accumulated as a result of selective absorption by some varieties of lettuce. The variation
in yield may, therefore, produce a high concentration or dilution effects on cation and
anion constituents (Kirkby and Mengel, 1967).
Generally now, There is evidence indicate that anomalous amounts of microelements
may be associated with many human eilments such as multiple sclerosis and some
cancers. Therefore, optimum use of EC level of nutrient solution and ideal variety results
in higher yield and better crop quality.The quality of crop products depends on inherited
genetic make-up and on environmental (external) factors.The inherited factors determine
the basic quality specific to the crop and variety, while the environmental factors affect
the realization of the inherited potential. The external factors include plant nutrients,
climate and management. Balanced use of plant nutrients plays a vital role in
determining the quality of the produce. Frequently, quality is improved by nutrients
application up to an optimum level, while applications well in excess of this may lead to
lower quality, either because of a straightforward nutrient excess or because of
imbalance between nutrients. It thus seems probable that the best EC level of nutrient
solution for lettuce plants is 1.0-1.5 mmhos. Finally, this study prefer to use Paris Island
which give highest yield with lowest accumulation of microelements.

Acknow ledgment

This work has been supported by NARP-Regional Councils Projects.

References

Charbonneau J., Gosselin A., Trudel MJ. (1988) Influence of electric conductivity and
intermittent flow of the nutrient solution on growth and yield of greenhouse tomato in
NFT. Soilless-Culture 4: 14-30
Chaudhry F.M., Loneragan J.F. (1972) Zinc absorption by wheat seedlings: II. inhibition
by hydrogen ions and by micronutrient cations. Soil Sci Soc Amer Proc 36: 327-331
Cogliatti D.H., Alcocer N., Santa Maria G.E. (1991) Effect of P concentration on Zn
uptake in Gudinia Fragilis. J Plant Nutrition 14: 443 -452
Cresswell G.c. (1991) Effect of lowering nutrient solution concentration at night on leaf
calcium levels and the incidence of tipburn in lettuce (var. Gloria). J Plant Nutrition
14: 913-929
Ehret D.L., Ho L.c. (1986) The effects of salinity on dry matter partitioning and fruit
growth in tomatoes grown in nutrient film culture. J Hort Sci 61: 361-367
El-Sharawy M.O., Elwan I.M., Abd- Elmoniem E.M. (1994) Response of corn plants to
feeding with phosphorous and zinc. Menofiya J Agric Res 19: 765-778
Kirkby E.A., Mengel K. (1967) Ionic balance in different tissues of the tomato plant in
relation to nitrate, urea, or ammonium nutrition. Plant Physiol 42:6-14

61
Olsen S.R. (1972) Micronutrient interactions. In : J.J. Mortvedt, P.M. Giordano, W.L.
Lindsay (eds). Micronutrients in Agriculture. Soil Sci Soc of Amer, Madison, WI,
U.S.A. pp 243-264
Resh H.M. (1989) Hydroponic food production. Woodbridge Press Publishing Company
Santa, California
Steiner A.A. (1980) The selective capacity of plants for ions and its importance for the
composition and treatment of the nutrient solution.In: Proc 5 th Int Congress on
Soilless Culture, Wageningen

Table (1) Effect of Ec levels on Fresh lettuce plants


FIRST SEASON
FRESH WEIGHT (g/plant)
.EC. MMHOS VARIETIES
TOM PARIS ICE MEAN
THUMP ISLAND QUEEN
EC =1 80.66 183.00 122.00 128.5
EC = 1.5 62.66 174.67 123.33 108.2
EC = 1.8 64.66 137.67 78.66 93.66
MEAN 69.33 165.11 108.00
SECOND SEASON
EC =1 68.40 144.47 75.23 96.03
EC = 1.5 61.03 133.53 75.33 89.9
EC = 1.8 52.56 116.61 65.61 78.2
MEAN 60.06 131.54 72.06
LSD
.. at 5%
LEVEL TREATMENTS VARIETIES INTERACTION
1 ST SEASON 24.01 24.01 N.S
2 ST SEASON 8.60 8.60 N.S

62
"able (2) Effect of Ec levels on Chlorophyll (spad) in lettuce plants
FIRST SEASON
Chlorophyll
EC. MMHOS VARIETIES
TOM PARIS ICE MEAN
THUMP ISLAND QUEEN
EC =1 13.63 31.43 15.66 20.24
EC = 1.5 13.66 33.06 16.36 21.03
EC = 1.8 12.63 33.93 15.40 20.65
MEAN 12.31 32.81 15.81
SECOND SEASON
EC =1 14.26 27.86 19.60 20.54
EC = 1.5 14.03 26.06 20.80 20.30
EC = 1.8 13.70 27.50 22.83 21.34
MEAN 14.00 27.14 21.04
LSD
.. at 5%
LEVEL TREATMENTS VARIETIES INTERACTION
1 ST SEASON N.S 1.74 N.S
2 ST SEASON N.S 1.74 N.S

Table (3) Effect of Ec levels on N concentration in lettuce plants


FIRST SEASON
N%
EC. MMHOS VARIETIES
TOM PARIS ICE MEAN
THUMP ISLAND QUEEN
EC =1 5.07 3.51 3.07 3.88
EC = 1.5 4.21 3.14 3.63 3.66
EC = 1.8 3.34 3.58 3.83 3.59
MEAN 4.21 3.41 3.51
SECOND SEASON
EC =1 3.68 3.21 3.38 3.42
EC = 1.5 3.59 2.79 3.49 3.26
EC = 1.8 3.45 3.24 3.36 3.35
MEAN 3.54 3.08 3.41
LSD
.. at 5%
LEVEL TREATMENTS VARIETIES INTERACTION
1 ST SEASON N.S 0.66 1.14
2 ST SEASON N.S 0.24 N.S

63
Table (4) Effect of Ec levels on P concentration in lettuce plants

FIRST SEASON
P%
EC. MMHOS VARIETIES
TOM PARIS ICE MEAN
THUMP ISLAND QUEEN
EC =1 0.93 0.88 0.77 0.86
EC = 1.5 0.97 0.88 0.95 0.94
EC = 1.8 1.03 1.03 0.93 1.00
MEAN 0.98 0.96 0.86
SECOND SEASON
EC =1 0.89 0.97 0.82 0.89
EC = 1.5 0.97 1.09 0.95 1.00
EC = 1.8 1.07 1.20 1.02 1.10
-MEAN 0.97 1.09 0.93
LSD at 5%
LEVEL TREATMENTS VARIETIES INTERACTION
1 ST SEASON 0.06 0.06 N.S
2 ST SEASON 0.10 0.10 N.S

Table (5) Effect of Ec levels on K concentration in lettuce plants


FIRST SEASON
K%
EC. MMHOS VARIETIES
TOM PARIS ICE MEAN
THUMP ISLAND QUEEN
EC =1 8.11 7.65 8.08 7.94
EC = 1.5 7.87 8.76 7.35 8.00
EC = 1.8 8.61 7.96 7.53 8.03
MEAN 8.20 8.12 7.65
SECOND SEASON
EC =1 7.07 7.98 8.22 7.76
EC = 1.5 7.24 7.59 7.56 7.46
EC = 1.8 7.41 7.79 8.46 7.89
MEAN 7.24 7.79 8.08
LSD
.. at 5%
LEVEL TREATMENTS VARIETIES INTERACTION
1 ST SEASON N.S N.S N.S
2 ST SEASON N.S N.S N.S

64
Table (6) Effect of Ec levels on Cu concentration in lettuce plants

FIRST SEASON
Cu%
EC. MMHOS VARIETIES
TOM PARIS ICE MEAN
THUMP ISLAND QUEEN
EC =1 36.33 32.08 34.50 34.30
EC = 1.5 31.04 27.66 34.92 31.21
EC = 1.8 30.00 33.25 31.58 31.61
MEAN 32.46 31.00 33.67
SECOND SEASON
EC =1 28.14 36.00 30.78 31.64
EC = 1.5 14.17 29.58 29.58 29.80
EC = 1.8 28.75 16.04 19.63 21.47
MEAN 23.68 27.21 26.73
LSD
.. at 5%
LEVEL TREATMENTS VARIETIES INTERACTION
1 ST SEASON N.S N.S N.S
2 ST SEASON N.S N.S N.S

Table (7) Effect of Ec levels on Zn concentration in lettuce plants

FIRST SEASON
Zn (Pprn)
EC. MMHOS VARIETIES
TOM PARIS ICE MEAN'
THUMP ISLAND QUEEN
EC =1 72.93 74.33 85.08 77.45
EC = 1.5 54.00 62.75 68.75 63.50
I EC = 1.8 53.92 70.42 50.17 58.17
MEAN 60.78 69.17 68.00
SECOND SEASON
EC =1 92.00 62.00 83.35 79.12
EC = 1.5 80.00 59.93 70.92 70.28
EC = 1.8 77.08 45.79 57.96 60.28
MEAN 83.03 55.91 70.74
LSD
.. at 5%
LEVEL TREATMENTS VARIETIES INTERACTION
1 ST SEASON N.S N.S N.S
2 ST SEASON 10.18 10.18 N.S

65
Table (8) Effect of Ec levels on Mn concentration in lettuce plants

FIRST SEASON
Mn (Ppm)
EC. MMHOS VARIETIES
TOM PARIS ICE MEAN
THUMP ISLAND QUEEN
EC =1 109.75 114.25 144.42 112.81
EC = 1.5 110.17 90.93 112.33 104.48
EC = 1.8 125.25 107.67 129.33 120.75
MEAN 115.06 104.28 118.69
SECOND SEASON
EC =1 129.33 79.17 82.50 97.00
EC = 1.5 116.67 87.50 90.00 98.06
EC = 1.8 113.33 99.59 107.92 109.95
MEAN 119.78 88.75 93.47
..
LSD at 5%
LEVEL TREATMENTS VARIETIES INTERACTION
1 ST SEASON N.S N.S N.S
2 ST SEASON N.S 16.59 N.S

Table (9) Effect of Ec levels on Fe concentration in lettuce plants

FIRST SEASON
Fe P m
EC. MMHOS VARIETIES
TOM PARIS ICE MEAN
THUMP ISLAND QUEEN
EC =1 886.37 796.37 1168.70 950.48
EC 1.5 = 912.50 830.50 944.33 895.77
EC 1.8 = 664.23 959.77 886.87 836.95
MEAN 821.03 862.21 999.96
SECOND SEASON
EC =1 934.23 692.10 1550.80 925.71
EC = 1.5 930.47 806.83 852.67 863.32
EC = 1.8 651.60 952.63 875.67 826.63
MEAN 838.76 817.18 959.71
..
LSD at 5%
LEVEL TREATMENTS VARIETIES INTERACTION I
1 ST SEASON 77.27 77.27 133.84 I
2 ST SEASON N.S 90.40 158.58 I

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