Responding to strong grower interest, the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) has added a fourth event to its roster of citrus nutrition workshops this fall.
The event happens 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 8, at the UF/IFAS Extension Highlands County office in Sebring.
For more information, visit citrusnutritionprogramsebring.eventbrite.com.
Admission is free and open to the public, but online advance registration is highly recommended due to demand, said co-organizer Tripti Vashisth, a horticultural sciences assistant professor with the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred.
“Our main goal is to educate growers about the latest findings in nutrition management, to keep their groves at optimal health,” Vashisth said. “We’re keeping our presentations consistent from one event to the next, so that growers will get all the information we are presenting, regardless of which session they attend.”
As with the other three events – held in Lake Alfred, Fort Pierce and Immokalee during October – UF/IFAS experts will be available to answer questions and distribute the new citrus nutrition boxes to growers who wish to receive custom-tailored advice regarding soil nutrition.
Vashisth explains that the program was developed because most commercial citrus trees in Florida today are affected by citrus greening disease, also known as huanglongbing or HLB. These HLB-affected trees are most productive when provided with frequent, small applications of water and nutrients, she said.
The citrus nutrition box program asks participating commercial growers to collect soil and leaf samples, then mail or hand-deliver the samples to a laboratory in Bartow that UF/IFAS has engaged for the program, Vashisth said. A team of citrus experts representing UF/IFAS Extension and research personnel will then review the lab results, develop a customized nutrition and irrigation plan for the sampled area, and e-mail their recommendations back to the grower as soon as possible.
“This is a new type of program. It’s science and practical application working together,” Vashisth said. She noted that the citrus nutrition box program could be considered an example of precision agriculture, which is the use of high-tech data collection and analysis to guide crop-management practices.
Precision agriculture is widely used in the Midwest for production of commodity crops such as corn and soybean, she said, and the citrus nutrition box program represents one of Florida’s boldest initiatives in that quickly expanding discipline.
Citrus needs careful management because Florida soils don’t hold nutrients well, and careful management is especially important now that HLB is so thoroughly established in Florida because the disease compromises a citrus tree’s ability to obtain nutrients from the soil, Vashisth said.
Organizers hope that the nutrition program will ensure that participants’ groves receive exactly the nutrients they need — a move that will not only optimize tree health but also reduce growers’ use of inputs, saving money and reducing environmental impact, she said.
“We are looking forward to working with the growers because this program will be a true collaboration,” Vashisth said. “We expect a lot of good to come out of it.”