Performance of watermelon (Citrullus lanatus L.) in response to organic and NPK fertilizers

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The soil of North-Central Nigeria is home to many plant products that are used as industrial raw materials, and after processing their waste are often left in drainage channels, which ultimately find their way into rivers and streams where they pollute these water bodies, and sometimes some of these materials are burnt, which further aggravates global warming. In addition, the soil of the region is characterized by low organic matter content because of annual bush burnings, which reduce the low humus content of soils. Watermelon requires a fertile soil, which is high in organic matter content, while infertile soils yield an increased production of male flowers at the expense of female flowers, which results in low fruit set. Therefore, a study was carried out at the University of Ilorin Teaching and Research Farm, Ilorin, North-Central Nigeria, during the rainy seasons of 2013 and 2014 to assess the effect of different organic materials on the growth and yield of watermelon. The factors imposed were a control, NPK fertilizer and five organic materials (neem seed cake (NSC), jatropha seed cake (JSC), poultry manure (PM), compost manure (CM), and cow dung (CD)). The experiment was a randomized complete block design (RCBD) replicated thrice. Data collected on soil physico-chemical properties were: organic matter content, soil pH, organic carbon, total N, P, K, Ca, and Mg, bulk density (BD), micro porosity (MIP), macro porosity (MAP), and saturated hydraulic conductivity (KS). Plant parameters evaluated include growth (vine length and number of leaves) and yield (number of fruits per plant, fruit weight per plant, and yield ha−1). Results indicated that the organic matter content increased after the first year’s cropping and declined at the end of the study. The amended plots showed significantly higher values (P < 0.05) with respect to most soil physical properties (MIP), (MAP), and (KS), except the BD, where the values were lower. The bulk density particularly deteriorated on soils that were not organically amended. In addition, the soil chemical properties examined increased following the first year’s cropping, and thereafter declined at the end of the second-year cropping season. The response of watermelon showed that the two years’ yield data ranged between 334 and 402 t/ha, 306 and 390 t/ha, and 38.25 and 59.20 t/ha for NPK, poultry manure, and control treatments respectively. From the results, it was observed that the organic amendments were environmentally more friendly compared to the inorganic amendment (NPK fertilizer) in terms of positive effects on soil structural properties.

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