Florida Citrus BMPs: Update and Suggestions

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Ray Royce

Work on finalizing a newly revised citrus best management practices (BMPs) manual has slowed, and that’s a good thing, according to Highlands County Citrus Growers Association (HCCGA) Executive Director Ray Royce. In a recent HCCGA newsletter article, he stated that a number of issues, especially related to nutrient management and application efficiency, need to be better understood.

“It is the phosphorus (P) fertilization rates that seem to be where many growers are supposedly being deemed by FDACS (Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services) to be ‘out of compliance,’” Royce wrote. He noted that University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) P utilization recommendations “are one of the primary issues of discussion since those guidelines are now being utilized in a regulatory manner by the state.”

UF/IFAS officials have acknowledged that significant new research is needed regarding P usage in citrus production programs, Royce stated. UF/IFAS, FDACS, state legislative leaders and citrus associations are discussing “how to best facilitate and fund such research,” he added. “In the interim, compliance with current BMPs is expected.”

Royce suggested that growers consider if they can reduce P usage rates without having their trees become deficient “and/or make sure that regular leaf tissue analysis demonstrates a need for the P rates being applied.”

Growers are required by state law to fully cooperate with FDACS staff as it conducts implementation verification audits, Royce noted. “Growers are encouraged to do everything within reason to comply with the requirements of the citrus BMPs in order to avoid potential actions that could lead to referral to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection,” he added.

Among other steps, Royce suggested that growers:

  • Familiarize themselves with the information in the 2021-22 edition of the Florida Citrus Production Guide, especially the sections on Nutrition Management and Fertilizer Application Methods (pages 79-91)
  • Compile and maintain a good set of records of all grove production activities
  • Create a very robust soil and leaf tissue analysis program and retain all of the results from such testing

Learn more about recent concerns on BMPs.

Source: Highlands County Citrus Growers Association

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