A team of University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) researchers is investigating how changes in soil health impact citrus and other subtropical tree crops. Specifically, they will examine how quickly soil health can change in Florida and how specific changes might impact yield. The U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture is funding the nearly $500,000, four-year project.
“Our goal is to help producers by finding out what cover crops do to soil health in Florida groves,” said UF/IFAS’ Sarah Strauss, lead investigator on the grant project. Learn more about Strauss’ work with cover crops.
“While there’s a lot of interest in soil health right now, much of the research and metrics for assessing it are not based on subtropical sandy soils like we have in Florida,” Strauss said. “In order to determine if soil health is improving, growers need to know what the best parameters are to measure. That includes determining which indicators are the most useful for monitoring the soil health of tree crops.”
Improving soil health will hopefully improve productivity. However, sometimes impacts aren’t seen for several years. Strauss and her team want to know what indicators can be measured only once a year or more frequently that might show progress even if yield hasn’t changed yet. This would provide critical grove management information to growers faster.
The team will first measure soil physical, biochemical and microbial parameters involved in carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus cycling at two Florida citrus groves. This will provide a detailed assessment of the changes to the environment and microbial groups with cover crops. After measuring cover crop impacts, scientists will see which soil health indicators can carry over to the non-citrus setting. They will also share Florida-specific information with producers.
“Ultimately, this study will provide a list of meaningful soil health indicators that Florida producers can use to meet their unique needs in subtropical tree fruit systems,” Strauss said.
Joining Strauss in the study are UF/IFAS soil and water sciences department colleagues Gabriel Maltais-Landry and Allan Bacon. In addition, Danielle Treadwell in the UF/IFAS horticultural sciences department will help expand the scope of the proposed research beyond citrus. Antonio Castellano-Hinojosa, a post-doctoral associate in Strauss’s lab, will also work on the project.
Source: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
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