Calcium application method impacts botrytis blight severity on petunia flowers

Two application methods of calcium (Ca), fertigation and spray, were investigated regarding their effects on Botrytis blight on petunia ( Petunia × hybrida ) flowers. Plants were grown for 6 weeks with three nutrient solutions consisting of 0, 100, or 200 mg·L ⁻¹ Ca and weekly calcium chloride (CaCl 2 ) sprays of 0, 750, or 1500 mg·L ⁻¹ Ca for a total of nine treatment combinations.
 
Flowers were harvested, inoculated with Botrytis spores, placed in humidity chambers, and evaluated for Botrytis blight severity. Disease severity decreased by 57% and 70% when flowers were treated with Ca spray applications of 750 and 1500 mg·L ⁻¹ Ca, respectively; however, no change in disease severity occurred across the Ca fertigation applications.
 
Ca concentration in the flower petal tissue increased with the Ca spray applications: the flower petal Ca concentration increased from 0.26% to 0.65% of tissue dry mass (DM) as the Ca spray application rate increased from 0 to 1500 mg·L ⁻¹ . However, no change was observed across the Ca fertigation treatments.
 
Leaf tissue Ca concentration increased from 2.1% to 3.2% DM as the fertigation solution increased from 0 to 200 mg·L ⁻¹ Ca, whereas spray application had no significant effects of leaf tissue Ca concentration.
 
The results demonstrate that spray application is a more effective technique than fertigation application to provide higher Ca tissue concentrations in flowers, and that the Ca concentration in flower petal tissue is an important consideration when evaluating tissue susceptibility to Botrytis blight. Because of the high rate of fungicide resistance to Botrytis cinerea found in commercial greenhouses, spray applications of CaCl 2 are an important disease management tool for commercial growers.
 

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