Kelly Morgan recently summarized several recommended changes in Florida citrus production practices brought on by the devastating disease HLB. Morgan is a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) soil and water science professor. He discussed what growers need to know to follow best management practices (BMPs) at the recent Citrus Nutrition Day at the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred.
Following are a few of the changes to UF/IFAS recommendations brought on by HLB in Florida:
- Soil and water quality should be managed by a frequent application of water and nutrients to the root system.
- Because of its benefits to soil fertility and its increased availability since the mid-1990s, organic matter addition has become more practical. This is especially true in the case of HLB-affected trees. In poor and depleted soils that are low in organic matter, addition of compost has clear benefits.
- Liquid fertilizers applied weekly, biweekly or monthly appear to improve the performance of HLB-affected trees. Repeated applications of small amounts of nutrients improve canopy size, trunk growth, root development and fruit yield by synchronizing nutrient applications with tree seasonal nutrient demand.
- The benefits of eliminating HLB through the use of citrus under protective screen (CUPS) production systems include rapid tree growth, little fruit drop and higher yields with premium-quality fruit. One of the main advantages of CUPS is the reduced frequency of insecticide sprays to control the psyllids that spread HLB.
Morgan said official UF/IFAS citrus nutrient recommendations can be found in two publications. They are Nutrition of Florida Citrus Trees, which is revised every eight to 10 years, and the Florida Citrus Production Guide, which is revised yearly.
He added that changes in micronutrient recommendations for HLB-affected trees are being considered by UF/IFAS, and that studies are underway to improve nitrogen and potassium recommendations for HLB-affected trees. Also, he reported that attempts are being made to secure funding for soil phosphorus test evaluation and rate studies.
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