Elevated Levels of Potassium in Greenhouse-grown Red Romaine Lettuce Impacts Mineral Nutrient and Soluble Sugar Concentrations
Barickman, T. C., T. E. Horgan, J. R. Wheeler, and C. E. Sams.  2016.  HortScience, 51(9):504-509.

Lettuce is one of the major crops of the United States and can provide a large portion of income for small to medium size growers. Growing lettuce in adverse environmental conditions can have negative effects on quality. Elevated levels of potassium (K) have been shown to positively influence quality in various fruits and vegetables, such as tomato, pepper, and strawberry. However, research is lacking on the effects of elevated levels of K on leafy vegetables such as lettuce. Therefore, seeds of ‘Cimmaron’ lettuce were sown into a soilless medium and grown in greenhouse conditions at 25/20 °C (day/night). At 27 days after seeding, the plantlets were transferred to 3.8-L plastic nursery pots. Plants were grown under increasing K treatments of 98 (control), 185 (2×), 370 (3×), and 740 (8×) kg·ha−1. Plants were harvested 56 days after seeding. Application of elevated levels of K fertilizer treatments in red romaine lettuce had a positive quadratic effect on plant height increasing 7.0% from the control. Fresh weight (FW) increased 13.0% from the control and dry weight (DW) increased 15.5%. There was linear increase of 30.0% in sucrose concentrations in lettuce leaf tissue. In addition, the increase in K treatments caused an increase of 43.3% in K concentrations in the leaf tissue. In other nutrients, such as Calcium (Ca), Magnesium (Mg), and Sulfur (S), there was a decrease in the leaf tissue of 61%, 52%, and 46% when compared with the control treatment, respectively. The results of the current study suggest that increasing K fertilizer to 185 kg·ha−1 has the best results for plant height, FW and DW, and mineral nutrient concentrations. This study may initiate research that could examine the effects of increasing K fertilizer levels in lettuce or other leafy green vegetables on antioxidant levels and postharvest storability.