Best Management Practices for Florida Citrus

in HortTechnology
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  • 1 University of Florida, IFAS, Citrus Research and Education Center, 700 Experiment Station Road, Lake Alfred, FL 33850
  • | 2 University of Florida, IFAS, Indian River Research and Education Center, Ft. Pierce, FL 34945.

Best management practices (BMPs) started in Florida citrus (Citrus spp.) in the 1990s and have evolved to play a major role in production practices today. One of the earliest BMPs in Florida arose from concerns over nitrate-nitrogen concentrations in some surficial groundwater aquifers exceeding the 10 mg·L-1 drinking water standard. This occurred in an area of well-drained sandy soils known as the Central Florida Ridge that extends north and south through the central part of the Florida peninsula. State agencies could have used a strictly regulatory approach and restricted how much nitrogen growers could apply. Instead of setting arbitrary regulations, the agencies promoted a scientific-based BMP approach. A nitrogen BMP for Central Florida Ridge citrus was established, and research is now validating the earlier groundwater work on more grower field sites. The purpose of this BMP was to minimize the risk of leaching nitrates from fertilizer into the groundwater. Several important aspects of the BMP involve: 1) limiting the amount of nitrogen fertilizer applied at any one time, 2) increasing the frequency of fertilizer applications, 3) reducing fertilizer applications during the summer rainy season, and 4) managing irrigation to reduce leaching below the root zone. Since this Central Florida Ridge nitrogen BMP was established, major BMP actions to improve water quality and reduce the quantity of runoff water have taken place in the Indian River production area of Florida's east coast. BMPs continue to be set up in other parts of the state for a variety of plant and animal agricultural practices. In some cases, cost-share funds have been provided to help implement BMPs. With voluntary BMPs, growers have scientifically based guidelines, a waiver of liability, and an avoidance of arbitrary regulations.

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