Groundcovers, Water Use and Yield

Ernie NeffResearch

Indian River Research and Education Center (IRREC) scientists are evaluating whether fabric mulch groundcovers can reduce water use in groves without compromising yield. A recent video shot during lemon harvest in a Scott Citrus Management Grove describes the research. IRREC is a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) facility in Fort Pierce.

The researchers are evaluating how much water is saved and whether yields improve when the groundcovers are used. They will also determine plant growth in covered blocks compared to uncovered blocks. All of the research will be used to provide tools and recommendations for growers so they can implement best management practices in their groves.

Precision irrigation tools are being used to collect real-time data for soil moisture and soil temperatures and to record how water is moving in the soil. The tools allow the precise management of water applications in the grove.

Another part of the research project is evaluating the relationship between water applied and the growth and health of tree root systems in covered and uncovered blocks.

The fabric mulch groundcovers the researchers are investigating are not commonly used in citrus. However, some growers do use them in an effort to control diaprepes root weevil populations in tree root systems. At Citrus Expo in August, UF/IFAS nematologist Larry Duncan told how fabric mulch landscape covers can aid in control of the root weevils. He said some of the covers, but not all, are very effective at blocking the root weevil larvae from getting into the soil after falling from a citrus tree.   

Source: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences

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