Growth and nitrogen (N) accumulation relationships based on tree size, rather than age, may provide more generic information that could be used to improve sweet orange [Citrus sinensis (L.) Osbeck] N management. The objectives of this study were to determine how orange trees accumulate and distribute biomass and N as they grow, investigate yearly biomass and N changes in mature orange trees, determine rootstock effect on biomass and N distribution, and to develop simple mathematical models describing these relationships. Eighteen orange trees with canopy volumes ranging between 2 and 43 m3 were dissected into leaf, twig, branch, and root components, and the dry weight and N concentration of each were measured. The N content of each tree part was calculated, and biomass and N distribution throughout each tree were determined. The total dry biomass of large (mature) trees averaged 94 kg and contained 0.79 kg N. Biomass allocation was 13% in leaves, 7% in twigs, 50% in branches/trunk, and 30% in roots. N allocation was 38% in leaves, 8% in twigs, 27% in branches/trunk, and 27% in roots. For the smallest tree, above-/below-ground distribution ratios for biomass and N were 60/40 and 75/25, respectively. All tree components accumulated biomass and N linearly as tree size increased, with the above-ground portion accumulating biomass about 2.5 times faster than the below-ground portion due mostly to branch growth. The growth models developed are currently being integrated in a decision support system for improving fertilizer use efficiency for orange trees, which will provide growers with a management tool to improve long-term N use efficiency in orange orchards.
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