Achieving Water and Nutrient Efficiency

Josh McGillIrrigation, Nutrition, Research

University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) researchers emphasized the importance of efficient irrigation and nutrient management at a workshop earlier this month at the Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred.

In Florida, the citrus industry accounts for about 30% of irrigated cropland acreage, reported UF/IFAS researcher Alisheikh Atta. Worldwide, the agriculture industry consumes about 70% of freshwater withdrawals. “Therefore, developing management approaches to control irrigation rates, which increases water use efficiency, are urgently needed,” Atta stated.

efficient irrigation
Davie Kadyampakeni, UF/IFAS assistant professor, studies citrus water and nutrient management.

Kelly Morgan, UF/IFAS soil and water science professor, called irrigation scheduling “a year-round decision that has to be made.” A slide in his presentation about irrigation scheduling for young trees stated that:

  • Reduced water amounts can result in smaller trees and increased time to initial harvest.
  • The lack of water in any stage of the citrus tree’s growth decreases yield and fruit quality.
  • Higher irrigation amounts could result in substantial loss of nutrients and herbicides from the citrus root zone through deep percolation and surface runoff.

Morgan added that daily irrigation of young HLB-infected trees resulted in improved irrigation management.

UF/IFAS researcher Davie Kadyampakeni addressed the impacts of macronutrients and micronutrients on root health, yield and juice quality. Key takeaways from his presentation included:

  • Current data suggests the need to update secondary macronutrient and micronutrient guidelines for HLB-affected trees for improved yield, improved canopy size and juice quality.
  • Proper macronutrients and micronutrients resulted in reduced root dieback and increased root growth because root density was increased, and trees were more efficient in nutrient uptake.
  • Nutrient leaching was significantly reduced with bi-weekly fertigation; nitrates were retained in the top 6 inches of the soil.
  • Combined use of crop protection products and nutrition strategies appear to remediate HLB-affected trees.

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About the Author

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large

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