Subirrigation Holds Promise for Citrus Nurseries

Ernie NeffIrrigation, nurseries

HLB, irrigation, nutrition
HLB, irrigation, nutrition

Johnny Ferrarezi

Savings in water and fertilizer, along with faster tree growth, can be achieved by using subirrigation in citrus nurseries. University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher Rhuanito (Johnny) Ferrarezi reported on the studies leading to those conclusions at a recent citrus nursery workshop. The event was held at the Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred, Florida.

Subirrigation, also known as seepage irrigation, distributes water to the plant root zone below the soil surface.

With subirrigation, Ferrarezi says, “there is a great potential for saving water and fertilizer by re-circulating the fertilizer solution, and we can truly grow taller trees faster.” He reports that subirrigation uses about 90 percent less water than the standard overhead irrigation used in most citrus nurseries. Fertilizer use is also reduced because it is applied through the subirrigation, he says.

While less water and fertilizer are being used in the subirrigation studies, trees are growing 25 to 30 percent faster, Ferrarezi says. “You produce trees faster in a shorter period of time. So then you can have multiple growing seasons throughout the year,” he says.

Some commercial nurseries already use subirrigation, and the practice is standard in ornamental nurseries, Ferrarezi reports. He says the systems used by ornamental nurseries can be adapted to citrus nurseries.

Ferrarezi cites some disadvantages to using the subirrigation system, including high start-up costs to convert to the system and the need to maintain a disease-free environment. But, he says, “I think the system is a great alternative to increase efficiency of watering and also to accelerate the production of new varieties.”

Hear more from Ferrarezi:

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Ernie Neff

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large