Florida growers participating in the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) citrus nutrition box program have found great value in the program.
Now in its second year of operation, the program provides free soil and leaf testing as well as tailored quarterly nutritional counseling. These free boxes of materials and instructions are distributed to registered growers who take samples from their groves. Samples are then submitted to a Florida laboratory, and the results are shared with a UF/IFAS team of researchers and Extension agents.
The UF/IFAS team meets weekly to go over each individual box and curate a customized fertilizer program for each grower. Personalized nutrient recommendations are presented in a user-friendly table format.
“At the top (of the table), it’ll have the nutrients. Underneath it, it’ll have the results from the lab, and right underneath that is exactly what you need to do for that nutrient,” explains Extension Program Manager Jamie Burrow, who worked with Tripti Vashisth to coordinate the program.
Vashisth, UF/IFAS assistant professor of horticultural sciences and citrus Extension specialist, says the ultimate goal of the program is to demonstrate how regular leaf nutrient sampling can be used to tweak fertilizer programs. Since the nutrition box program will only run for one more year, Vashisth hopes it serves as a guide for growers to carry on after the completion of the program.
During the first year of the program, there were over 70 participants. In year two, there are over 90 different grove locations participating, including more than 50 returning participants.
“We put a lot of time and effort in this, and I think our growers are appreciating that and they see the value. Also, they see that the trees do respond when you take care of their nutritional needs,” said Vashisth.
One of the program participants shared before and after photos of his grove with the UF/IFAS team, and Vashisth said the visual differences in the trees were night and day.
Hear more from Vashisth and Burrow in the June 2021 episode of the All In For Citrus podcast, a joint project of UF/IFAS and AgNet Media.