Florida citrus production can be significantly impacted during the summertime heat. High temperatures with little to no rainfall can affect trees’ vegetative growth, fruit set and fruit quality, says Amir Rezazadeh, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) multi-county fruit and field crops agent.
Heat is a factor that can cause citrus trees to become significantly dehydrated.
“Heat distress and high temperature, along with low water, affect citrus groves,” Rezazadeh says. “Usually heat distress comes with drought or lack of water.”
To help protect trees from heat stress, he says it is important to know what tree symptoms look like. Leaves curling, green leaves falling or turning yellow, and fruit dropping from trees “are signs of heat distress or drought together,” Rezazadeh warns.
One management strategy that growers can implement is to water early in the morning. This reduces the potential for water loss due to evaporation.
Rezazadeh adds that in the summertime, newly planted trees should be watered more frequently than older trees. “They haven’t developed a root system,” says Rezazadeh. “You need to water the young trees more than the maturing trees.” In addition, citrus planted in sandy soil needs more water than trees in heavy soil.
Another strategy is for growers to apply mulch around the base of trees. Mulch helps retain soil moisture and keep water on the soil surface. Be sure to leave space between the tree trunk and mulch to prevent any fungal diseases, says Rezazadeh.
He also recommends the use of moisture sensors to help know when impending drought may be happening.
“Start irrigation as soon as the drought and heat distress start,” advises Rezazadeh.
Learn more about heat stress from Rezazadeh in the July All In For Citrus podcast, a joint project of UF/IFAS and AgNet Media. Listen to the full podcast here.
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