Impact of Nitrate and Ammonium ratio on Nutrition and Growth of two Epiphytic Orchids

Abstract Phalaenopsis and Dendrobium do not grow and flower well with 100% ammonium (NH4-N); and there are detailed studies on the effects of nitrate (NO3-N) and ammonium ratios on the flowering, but no information about accumulation of other nutrients and the effects of ammonium toxicity on orchids. For this reason, two experiments were carried out with orchids: Phalaenopsis ‘Golden Peoker’ and Dendrobium ‘Valentine’. Six months after acclimatization the plants were transplanted to individual plastic vessels and the treatments consisted of five ratios (%) of nitrate / ammonium (0/100, 25/75, 50/50, 75/25, 100/0). The sources of NO3-N and NH4-N were calcium nitrate and ammonium sulfate, respectively. After 12 months treatment, when the plants were beginning to issuance of flower stem, the accumulation of: N, P, K, Ca and Mg in the shoot and biometric variables were evaluated for both species. The NH4-N ratio of 40% and 50% of the total nitrogen benefited the growth of Phalaenopsis and Dendrobium, respectively. The application of higher proportions of ammonium resulted in decreased N, K, Ca and Mg absorption, index of green color and increased leakage of electrolytes in Phalaenopsis and Dendrobium. NH4-N proportions greater than 75% for 12 months caused toxicity in Phalaenopsis and Dendrobium.