Indian River area citrus grower Cody Estes provided the impetus for an upcoming research project into the use of sap analysis for monitoring citrus tree nutrient levels. The analysis method has been used in other crops. Advocates declare it to be a relatively inexpensive way to quickly determine nutrient status so growers can make corrections before nutrient excess or deficiency symptoms appear in crops.
Indian River Research and Education Center scientist Rhuanito “Johnny” Ferrarezi said Estes talked to him about sap analysis in October 2020. The occasion was a planning meeting for the 2021 Florida Citrus Show (FCS). The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences’ (UF/IFAS) Ferrarezi is the show’s chief seminar planner. “I tried to find a researcher to talk at the FCS, but it was impossible as no one ever worked on the topic,” Ferrarezi said. “So I decided to investigate it further.”
Ferrarezi obtained a small U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to compare sap analysis versus leaf analysis and a stand-alone bench nutrient analyzer in Ray Ruby grapefruit and Bingo mandarin. The funding comes from a Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education On-Farm Research Grant. Ferrarezi said the On-Farm grants emphasize relationship building between the researcher and the farmer. They help support farmers in conducting new and innovative sustainable agriculture production and marketing practices.
“Cody contacted me and wanted to host the project,” Ferrarezi said. “He kindly made his grove available for a pilot test.” Estes’ grove is in Vero Beach, Florida.
The project will compare a low-cost stand-alone bench nutrient analyzer, standard soil and plant leaf tissue analysis, and plant sap analysis in the HLB endemic region in the Indian River Citrus District. The project will provide the tools to determine causes for nutrient imbalances and assist in finding solutions quickly.
“With this approach, we expect to improve fertilizer management, conserve natural resources, minimize negative environmental impacts and reduce production costs,” Ferrarezi said.
Ferrarezi anticipates beginning the sap analysis research in May. “In the meantime,” he said, “I decided on putting together a separate event to bring two researchers and three commercial labs to provide more information.” That event was a virtual workshop that Ferrarezi hosted April 28. Estes was one of the 80 people who tuned in.
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