Foliar-Applied Surfactants and Urea Temporarily Reduce Carbon Assimilation of Grapefruit Leaves

in Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science
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  • 1 Citrus Research and Education Center, University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, 700 Experiment Station Road, Lake Alfred, FL 33850

Although urea can be an effective adjuvant to foliar sprays, we examined effects of additional surfactants on urea penetration through leaf cuticles along with the effect of urea with and without surfactants on net gas exchange of leaves of `Marsh' grapefruit (Citrus paradisi Macf.) trees budded to Carrizo citrange (C. sinensis L. Osbeck × Poncirus trifoliata L. Raf.) rootstock. Various combinations of urea, a nonionic surfactant (X-77), and an organosilicone surfactant (L-77), were applied to grapefruit leaves and also to isolated adaxial cuticles. When compared to X-77, L-77 exhibited superior surfactant features with smaller contact angles of droplets deposited on a teflon slide. Both L-77 and X-77 initially increased penetration rate of urea through cuticles, but the effect of X-77 was sustained for a longer period of time. The total amount of urea which penetrated within a 4-day period, however, was similar after addition of either surfactant. Solutions of either urea, urea + L-77, urea + X-77, or L-77 alone decreased net assimilation of CO2 (ACO2) for 4 to 24 hours after spraying onto grapefruit leaves. A solution of X-77 alone had no effect on ACO2 over the 4-day period. Although reductions in ACO2 were similar following sprays of urea formulated with two different surfactants, the underlying mechanisms may not have been the same. For the urea + X-77 treatment, X-77 increased the inhibitory effects of urea on ACO2 indirectly by increasing penetration of urea into leaves. For the urea + L-77 formulation, effects of L-77 on ACO2 were 2-fold, direct by inhibiting ACO2 and indirect by increasing urea penetration. One hour after application, scanning electron microscopy (SEM) of leaf surfaces treated with X-77 revealed that they were heavily coated with the residue of the surfactant, whereas leaves treated with L-77 looked similar to nontreated leaves with no apparent residues on their surfaces. The amount of X-77 residue on the leaves was lower 24 hours after application than after 1 hour as observed by SEM.

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