Pine bark is utilized as a substrate in citrus nurseries in South Africa. The Nitrogen (N) content of pine bark is inherently low, and due to the volubility of N, must be supplied on a continual basis to ensure optimum growth rates of young citrus nursery stock. Three citrus rootstock (rough lemon, carrizo citrange and cleopatra mandarin) showed no difference in stem diameter or total dry mass (TDM) when supplied N at concentrations between 25 and 200 mg ·l-1 N in the nutrient solution over a 12 month growing period. Free leaf arginine increased when N was supplied at 400 mg·l-1 N. The form of N affected the growth of rough lemon. High NH4-N:NO3-N (75:25) ratios decreased TDM when Sulfur (S) was absent from the nutrient solution, but not if S was present. Free arginine increased in leaves at high NH4-N (No S) ratios, but not at high NH4-N (S supplied) ratios. Free leaf arginine was correlated with free leaf ammonia. These results have important implications for reducing the concentration of N in nutrient solutions used in citrus nurseries and may indicate that higher NH4-N ratios can be used when adequate S is also supplied.
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