366 Nitrogen Fertigation of Young Navel Orange Trees

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  • 1Univ. of Arizona, Dept. of Soil, Water & Environmental Science, Tuscon, AZ. 85712; 2Texas Tech University, Plant & Soil Science Dept., Lubbock, TX 79409

Citrus production in the southwestern U.S. is highly dependent on inputs of irrigation and N fertilizer to achieve optimum fruit yield and quality. Microsprinkler irrigation may allow for substantial increase in efficiency of N and water application. However, best management practices have not yet been developed for microsprinkler use, particularly on newly established citrus trees. Experiments were conducted during 1997–98 in central Arizona to evaluate the effects of various N rates and fertigation frequencies on growth and N partitioning in young `Newhall' navel oranges planted in Apr. 1997. Two experiments were conducted, each with factorial combinations of N rate and fertigation frequency. In one experiment, non-labeled N fertilizer was used and in the other 15N-labeled N fertilizer. Trunk diameter, leaf N, and 15N partitioning in the trees were measured. During 1997, neither trunk diameter or leaf N were affected by N rate or fertigation frequency. No more than 6% of the N applied was taken up by the trees, and about 50% of the fertilizer N taken up was found in the leaves. Trees grew much more rapidly in 1998. Leaf N in fertilized plots was significantly higher than in control plots, but leaf N in all trees remained above the critical level of 2.5%. Despite rapid tree growth during 1998, no more than 25% of the fertilizer N applied was taken up by the trees. About 60% of the fertilizer N taken up was found in the leaves. Results suggest that N applications are not needed during the first growing season after planting for microsprinkler-irrigated citrus trees in the Southwest. Only modest rates (68 to 136 g/tree) will be needed during the second season to maintain adequate tree reserves.

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