Our objectives were to determine the effects of leaf N concentration in citrus nursery trees on subsequent growth responses to fertilization for the first 2 years after planting and the impact of N fertilizer rate on soil NO3-N concentration. `Hamlin' orange [Citrus sinensis (L.) Osb.] trees on `Swingle' citrumelo rootstock [C. paradisi Macf. × P. trifoliata (L.) Raf.] were purchased from commercial nurseries in Apr. 1992 (Expt. 1) and Jan. 1993 (Expt. 2) and were grown in the greenhouse at differing N rates. Five months later, trees for each experiment were separated into three groups (low, medium, and high) based on leaf N concentration and were planted in the field in Oct. 1992 (Expt. 1) or Apr. 1993 (Expt. 2). Trees were fertilized with granular material (8N-2.6P-6.6K-2Mg-0.2Mn-0.12Cu-0.27Zn-1.78Fe) with N at 0, 0.11, 0.17, 0.23, 0.28, or 0.34 kg/tree per year. Soil NO3-N levels were determined at 0- to 15- and 16- to 30-cm depths for the 0.11-, 0.23-, and 0.34-kg rates over the first two seasons in Expt. 2. Preplant leaf N concentration in the nursery varied from 1.4% (Expt. 1) to 4.1% (Expt. 2) but had no effect on trunk diameter, height, shoot growth and number, or dry weight in year 1 (Expt. 1) or years 1 and 2 (Expt. 2) in the field. Similarly, fertilizer rate in the field had no effect on growth during year 1 in the field. However, trunk diameter increased with increasing N rate in year 2 and reached a maximum with N at 0.17 kg/tree per year but decreased at higher rates. Shoot number during the second growth flush in year 2 was much lower for nonfertilized vs. fertilized trees at all rates, which had similar shoot numbers. Nevertheless, leaf N concentrations increased during the season for trees with initially low levels, even for trees receiving low fertilizer rates. This suggests translocation of N from other organs to leaves. Soil NO3-N levels were highest for the 0.34-kg rate and lowest at the 0.11-kg rate. Within 2 to 3 weeks of fertilizing, NO3-N levels decreased rapidly in the root zone.
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