Grower Appreciates Nutrition Test Kit

Ernie NeffNutrition

Marshall Hartley shows off his nutrition test kit.

Lake Wales citrus grower Marshall Hartley left a recent meeting at the Citrus Research and Education Center with a box containing nutrition sampling materials for his small grove.

His was one of 31 boxes passed out as part of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences’ (UF/IFAS) Citrus Nutrition Management Program. More growers will pick up boxes this month at meetings at the Indian River Research and Education Center (Oct. 23) and the Southwest Florida Research and Education Center (Oct. 29).

The sampling materials will allow growers to assess their trees’ nutritional needs for a year by collecting one soil sample and four leaf samples. The samples will be analyzed by a laboratory, and UF/IFAS will offer fertilizer recommendations based on the analyses. The cost of the program is being covered by UF/IFAS, which wants to help growers cope better with HLB by ensuring they have proper nutrition programs in place.

“I’m really excited to see that the university’s doing this,” says Hartley. “I’ve done a lot of leaf and soil testing in my career. It’s always nice to know what’s going on in the grove … to make sure that everything’s in balance.” Hartley says trees might look good to a grower, but have “hidden deficiencies.” He also says that “excesses (of nutrients) are just as bad as deficiencies.”

“The only way to really know what’s exactly going on with your tree, health-wise, is to have a sample — a leaf sample and a soil sample — to be able to tell what’s in balance and what’s not, and then you can correct it,” Hartley says. He thinks taking leaf samples four times a year “will help in being able to identify our problems and find out if we’ve corrected our problems.”

Hartley says he “very much” looks forward to getting the UF/IFAS nutrition recommendations based on the samples he takes. “This is all going to be free,” he says. “They’re going to help us correct the things that we’re not doing and help us get it back in balance.”

UF/IFAS horticulturist Tripti Vashisth explained the Citrus Nutrition Program at the meeting at the Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred. The explanation of the program and allocation of the boxes was part of a grower meeting, called an OJ break, hosted by multi-county citrus Extension agent Chris Oswalt.

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About the Author

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large