Long-term Response of `Hamlin' Orange Trees to Controlled-release Nitrogen Fertilizers

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  • 1 Soil and Water Science Department, University of Florida, P.O. Box 110290, Gainesville, FL 32611
  • | 2 Horticultural Sciences Department, University of Florida, Southwest Florida Research and Education Center, 2686 State Road 29 North, Immokalee, FL 34142

Controlled-release N (CRN) fertilizer is receiving interest as a possible nutrient best management practice (BMP) for Florida citrus production, but grower acceptance will be limited until cost decreases and familiarity with CRN materials increases. The objective of this study was to compare long-term citrus production resulting from N fertilizer programs containing isobutylidene diurea (IBDU) or methylene urea (MU) with a conventional water-soluble N fertilizer program to determine the magnitude of horticultural utility provided by CRN. We applied N to a newly planted `Hamlin' orange (Citrus sinensis L. Osbeck) orchard using three sources (100% ammonium nitrate (AN); a 50/50 mixture of AN/IBDU; a 60/40 mixture of AN/MU) at four rates (0.25, 0.5, 1.0, and 2.0 or 1.5 times the recommended annual rate) in factorial combination, and continued for 7 years. During this period, AN was applied 31 times vs. about 15 times for CRN-containing fertilizers. We measured fruit yield, juice quality, and total soluble solids (TSS) yield in years 4 through 7 and found that they generally were not affected by N source, especially when year-to-year variation was taken into account. In year 7, fruit and TSS yields of well-fertilized trees reached 153 and 9.2 kg/tree, respectively. Maximum 4-year cumulative fruit and TSS yields (486 and 27.6 kg/tree, respectively) occurred at an N rate of 200 kg/ha. Maximum juice quality occurred at 180 kg N/ha. We feel the CRN materials tested could be used successfully in a nutritional BMP program that would maintain high yields while potentially decreasing N loss to the environment.

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