Compost Use in Commercial Citrus in Florida

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  • 1 Nutri-Source, Inc., P.O. Box 1696, Windermere, FL 34786-1696.
  • 2 University of Florida, Southwest Florida Research and Education Center, 2686 State Road 29 North, Immokalee, FL 34142-9515

Commercial citrus (Citrus sp.) groves in Florida use an average of 150 lb/acre (168 kg·ha-1) of elemental nitrogen (N) per year. There are about 853,000 acres (345,000 ha) of commercial citrus requiring about 63,975 tons (62,652 t) of N. At an average analysis of 12% N, about 533,125 tons (483,811 t) of blended nitrogenous fertilizers are applied to citrus annually. To meet this annual N demand from compost, it would be necessary to produce 3,198,750 tons (2,901,906 t) of 2% N compost. The market for high-quality compost products in Florida is far greater than the current or projected production capacity of the state. As long as the cost benefits of compost are clear to citrus growers, demand will always exceed supply. Not all composts are equal in their nutrient availability. The best composts for use as fertilizers are derived from sewage sludge or biosolids, municipal solid waste and sludge, food waste, and/or animal manure combined with a bulking agent such as sawdust or wood chips. Composts made from wood waste as their only feedstock contain large amounts of lignin and cellulose to break down within a reasonable period to directly offset chemical fertilizers. Ultimately, they will mineralize in the soil and provide all of the benefits described earlier, but their rates of availability are in years rather than months, like the other composts.

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