Fertilization Splitting Helps With HLB

Ernie NeffHLB Management, Nutrition

Citrus trees infected with HLB lose leaves and often die within three years of infection.
(Photo by Alisheikh Atta)

Researchers at the University of Florida have found a way to manage groves infected with HLB by managing the timing of their fertilization. By splitting the application of nutrients to citrus rootstocks, they have been able to improve plant growth and fruit yields. The research was recently published in Soil Science Society of America Journal.

Alisheikh Atta and his colleagues researched the timing of the application of various nutrients, including nitrogen, calcium and magnesium.

“Leaf nutrient concentrations, tree growth and fruit yield and quality are interrelated in many aspects,” says Atta. “We found that splitting the application of nitrogen potentially lowered the citrus trees’ requirements for this nutrient. Moreover, split applications enhanced the uptake of the other leaf nutrients. The results indicated that leaf magnesium concentrations were deficient during most of the seasons and suggested the need for sustainable fertilization to meet the optimum nutrient range.”

The team performed their study at the University of Florida’s Immokalee location from January 2017 to December 2019. Two types of rootstocks were planted in the same type of soil and managed the same way. The trees were originally planted in 2006. At the start of the study, a high degree of HLB infection was present.

The researchers performed different types of nutrient management over the study period. This included different rates of nitrogen application and application of secondary nutrients like calcium and magnesium.

The study found that citrus trees did well with the split application of nutrients. The trees grew more vigorously, with more leaves and improved fruit yields. The availability of essential nutrients increases vegetative growth. Vegetative growth improves fruit yield and quality. Researchers also found that more fruit could be harvested when trees were treated with secondary macronutrients like calcium and magnesium.

Future research could focus on reducing fruit drop with the split application of essential nutrients. Fruit drop is the premature dropping of unripe fruit from a tree.

Read more about the research.

Source: American Society of Agronomy

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