Valencia Grove Design Research Earns Award

Ernie NeffAwards


Scientists who showed that high-density plantings yield considerably more Valencia oranges, among other findings, have been honored by the American Society for Horticultural Science. Researchers Rhuanito “Johnny” Ferrarezi, Mark Ritenour and Alan Wright won the society’s Outstanding Fruit Publication Award. The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers work at the Indian River Research and Education Center (IRREC) in Fort Pierce.

The three researchers conducted experiments to determine which design variables in Valencia orange groves promoted healthy fresh fruit harvests in the presence of HLB. Their award-winning document, “Sweet Orange Orchard Architecture Design, Fertilizer, and Irrigation Management Strategies under Huanglongbing-endemic Conditions in the Indian River Citrus District,” appeared in the December 2020 issue of HortScience.

“The 7-year study broke new ground on data we provide to local citrus growers who remain in business despite huanglongbing, or HLB,” said Ronald D. Cave, director of the IRREC.

Here are some of the findings from the study:

  • High-density plantings produce more fruit — from 86% up to 300% more — than trees not planted in high-density configurations under HLB.
  • Advanced management practices that included high tree density, fertigation and drip irrigation led to higher fruit yield.
  • Additional research is needed to determine optimal fertilization rates for high-density sweet orange groves under HLB-endemic conditions

Others who contributed to the research and the award-winning publication are Arun D. Jani, a post-doctoral research assistant; Thomas James III, who manages citrus research groves; and Cristina Gil, an agricultural research assistant.

“We strive to keep citrus growers in business even though HLB is reducing the profitability of infected trees over time,” said Ferrarezi. “The point is to sustain younger trees for a number of harvests to produce the healthy, delicious fruit that made the Indian River District famous.”

Source: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences

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