Projecten per jaar
Strawberry cultivation is associated with high mineral fertilizer doses and extensive use of chemical plant protection products. Based on previous research, we expected that chitin application to peat substrate would increase the nutrient availability and activate the plant systemic defense response, resulting in higher strawberry yields and fewer disease symptoms. We set up two experiments in which the temporal variability and differences in initial nutrient concentrations of the growing media were taken into account. Chitin treatment resulted in the attraction of plant growth–promoting fungi toward the plant root, such as species from genera Mortierella and Umbelopsis. In addition, by the end of the experiments 87 mg of mineral nitrogen (N) per liter of substrate was mineralized, which can be related to the observed increase in plant shoot biomass. This, however, led to nutrient imbalances in plant shoots and fruit; N concentration in the leaves increased over 30%, exceeding the optimal range, while phosphorous (P) and potassium (K) deficiencies occurred, with concentrations lower than 50% of the optimal range. This may explain the decreased fruit yield and disease resistance of the fruit toward Botrytis cinerea. In contrast, chitin caused a clear defense priming effect in the strawberry leaves, with a strong induction of the jasmonic acid response, resulting in fewer foliar disease symptoms. Chitin causes positive effects on shoot growth and foliar disease resistance, but caution needs to be taken for nutrient imbalances leading to negative influences on root growth, fruit production, and disease susceptibility toward B. cinerea.