Friday, January 23, 2009

Greenhouse and Nursery - Checking Your Fertilizer Injectors

Fertilizer injectors are a key component of liquid feed programs in greenhouses and nurseries. The following is a short article reminding you to check your fertilizer injectors for accuracy on a regular basis from the New England Greenhouse Update.

An injector setting of 1:100 means that 1 gallon of fertilizer concentrate makes 100 gallons of final solution. It does not mean that the injector is delivering 100 parts per million (ppm) nitrogen. Many injectors have a dual settings, in percent and ratio. A 1 percent setting is the same as a 1:100 ratio, a 2 percent setting is the same as a 1:50 ratio and a 0.5 percent setting is the same as a 1:200 ratio. To make the appropriate concentrate for a specific injector setting, determine the amount of fertilizer to dissolve per gallon of water. This can be done by using a chart or calculating it yourself. Note that fertilizer should be measured by weight for mixing, not volume. Also, fertilizer solution color is not a reliable gauge for fertilizer concentration.

Fertilizer injectors should be checked periodically to be sure they are operating accurately. This can be done by testing the electrical conductivity (EC) of the fertilizer solution. To check a fertilizer solution, use a good conductivity meter or send a sample to your State University soil test laboratory.

Procedure to check the EC of a fertilizer solution:

  • Let plain water (no fertilizer) run a little, then collect water in a clean bucket.
  • Take a sample of the plain water from the bucket. Check the EC of the untreated water supply.
  • Mix up your fertilizer as you normally do and run it through the injector and hose. Let it run a little to be sure you get an accurate sample.
  • Take a sample of the fertilizer-injected water from the end of the hose and use your meter or soil test laboratory to check the EC of the sample.
  • Subract the EC value of the untreated water from the EC value of the fertilizer water.
  • Compare the results to an EC chart from the fertilizer manufacturer or fertilizer bag. The chart will correlate the EC measurement with the ppm Nitrogen so you can determine if your injector and mixing procedure is accurate.

Reprinted from "Checking Your Fertilizer Injector" by Tina Smith, University of Massachusetts in the January 13, 2009 post on the New England Greenhouse Update site

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