High Application Rates of Reclaimed Water Benefit Citrus Tree Growth and Fruit Production

in HortScience
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  • 1 University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Citrus Research and Education Center, 700 Experiment Station Road, Lake Alfred, FL 33850-2299

Conversion of wastewater to reclaimed water for crop irrigation conserves water and is an effective way to handle a growing urban problem: the disposal of wastewater. Water Conserv II is a large reclaimed water project developed by Orlando and Orange County, Fla., that presently irrigates ≈1900 ha of citrus. The project includes a research component to evaluate the response of citrus to irrigation using reclaimed water. Citrus trees in an experimental planting responded well to very high application rates of reclaimed water. Irrigation treatments included annual applications of 400 mm of well water, and 400, 1250, and 2500 mm of reclaimed water. The 2500-mm rate is excessive, and since disposal was of interest, this rate was used to determine if citrus could tolerate such high rates of irrigation. The effects of these treatments were compared on `Hamlin' orange [Citrus sinensis (L.) Osb.] and `Orlando' tangelo (C. paradisi Macf. × C. reticulata Blanco) combined with four rootstocks: Carrizo citrange [Citrus sinensis (L.) Osb. × Poncirus trifoliata (L.) Raf.], Cleopatra mandarin (C. reticulata Blanco), sour orange (C. aurantium L.), and Swingle citrumelo (C. paradisi × P. trifoliata). Growth and fruit production were greatest at the highest irrigation rate. Concentration of soluble solids in the juice was usually lowered by the highest irrigation rate, but total soluble solids per hectare were 15.5% higher compared to the 400-mm rate, due to the greater fruit production. While fruit soluble solids were usually lowered by higher irrigation, the reduction in fruit soluble solids observed on three of the rootstocks did not occur in trees on Carrizo citrange. Fruit peel color score was lower but juice color score was higher at the highest irrigation rate. Crop efficiency (fruit production per unit of canopy volume) was usually lower at the 2500-mm rate and declined as trees grew older. Weed cover increased with increasing irrigation rate, but was controllable. Irrigation with high rates of reclaimed water provided a satisfactory disposal method for treated effluent, benefited growth and production of citrus, and eliminated the need for other sources of irrigation water. Reclaimed water, once believed to be a disposal problem in Florida, is now considered to be one way to meet irrigation demands.

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