drought stress

Dealing With Drought Stress

Daniel CooperTip of the Week, Weather

drought stress

By Amir Rezazadeh

Citrus trees are not immune to the challenges posed by drought stress. Drought stress occurs when a tree’s water supply falls below its demand, leading to physiological disruptions that can impair growth, development and fruit production. In the dry season, when water scarcity is a prevalent issue in Florida, understanding and managing drought stress in citrus trees is crucial for maintaining grove productivity and sustainability.

drought stress
As a defense mechanism against high temperatures and water loss, citrus leaves may curl up.

Insufficient rainfall, high temperatures, soil water deficits and poor irrigation practices are primary contributors to drought stress. Additionally, factors such as soil compaction, poor drainage and excessive salinity can exacerbate drought conditions by limiting the tree’s ability to access water and nutrients from the soil.


The effects of drought stress on citrus trees can manifest in several ways, impacting their overall health and productivity. Reduced water availability inhibits photosynthesis, leading to decreased carbohydrate production and stunted growth. Prolonged drought stress can weaken citrus trees’ defenses against pests and diseases, making them more susceptible to infestations and infections. Fruit yield and quality may also decline due to inadequate water supply, resulting in smaller fruits with compromised flavor and nutritional content.


Optimize Irrigation Practices: Implement efficient irrigation systems, such as drip irrigation or microsprinklers, to deliver water directly to the tree’s root zone while minimizing water loss through evaporation.

Soil Management: Improve soil structure and water infiltration by incorporating organic matter, such as compost or manure, into the soil.

Pruning and Thinning: Prune citrus trees to remove dead or diseased branches and thin out dense foliage to reduce water competition among branches.

Nutrient Management: Maintain balanced nutrition by fertilizing citrus trees with appropriate micronutrients and macronutrients, especially potassium and calcium, which play essential roles in regulating water uptake and cellular functions.

Water Conservation: Implement water conservation measures, such as rainwater harvesting, soil moisture sensors and recycled water use, to optimize water utilization and minimize waste.

Amir Rezazadeh is a multi-county fruit and field crops agent with University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension in St. Lucie County.

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