Pay Attention to pH for Best Nutrient Uptake

Tacy CalliesAll In For Citrus Podcast, Nutrition, soil


There 17 essential elements that plants need to grow. Three of those elements come to plants via water and the atmosphere. The 14 other elements come from fertilizer applications. Almost all of those are dependent on soil pH to determine how well they are picked up by plants’ root systems.

Getting the soil pH just right was discussed in the latest episode of the All In For Citrus podcast. Brandon White, a multi-crop agent with University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Extension, gave insights on why pH is crucial in citrus nutrition.

“If your pH gets beyond the optimal range, the essential nutrients might be in the soil but not available to the plant,” he said. “So, if we don’t have our pH right, it could be an economic waste or have environmental implications if nutrients are not taken up and pollute waters.”

The general rule of thumb for most plants is the ideal pH range should be slightly acidic at 5.5 to 6.5. The scale runs from 0 to 14, with 7 being considered neutral. White noted recent research suggests a narrower range of 5.8 to 6.5 is ideal for citrus. He suggested growers test their soil pH on an annual basis.

White also said irrigation water pH should not be overlooked. Water in Florida often tends to be more alkaline, which can impact the uptake of nutrients by plants. 

“The tests are quick, easy and inexpensive,” he said. “The lab results will tell you what the water pH is and your bicarbonate levels. When the levels are too high, growers usually treat by injecting acid into their irrigation water before it hits the groves.”

Hear more on managing pH in the June episode of All In For Citrus. The podcast is a joint project of UF/IFAS and AgNet Media.

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Frank Giles