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Qiang Zhu, Monica Ozores-Hampton, Yuncong Li, Kelly Morgan, Guodong Liu, and Rao S. Mylavarapu

Florida produces the most vegetables in the United States during the winter season with favorable weather conditions. However, vegetables grown on calcareous soils in Florida have no potassium (K) fertilizer recommendation. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of K rates on leaf tissue K concentration (LTKC), plant biomass, fruit yield, and postharvest quality of tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum L.) grown on a calcareous soil. The experiment was conducted during the winter seasons of 2014 and 2015 in Homestead, FL. Potassium fertilizers were applied at rates of 0, 56, 93, 149, 186, and 223 kg·ha−1 of K and divided into preplant dry fertilizer and fertigation during the season. No deficiency of LTKC was found at 30 days after transplanting (DAT) in both years. Potassium rates lower than 149 kg·ha−1 resulted in deficient LTKC at 95 DAT in 2014. No significant responses to K rates were observed in plant (leaf, stem, and root combined) dry weight biomass at all the sampling dates in both years. However, at 95 DAT, fruit dry weight biomass increased with increasing K rates to 130 and 147 kg·ha−1, reaching a plateau thereafter indicated by the linear-plateau models in 2014 and 2015, respectively. Predicted from quadratic and linear-plateau models, K rates of 173 and 178 kg·ha−1 were considered as the optimum rates for total season marketable yields in 2014 and 2015, respectively. Postharvest qualities, including fruit firmness, pH, and total soluble solids (TSS) content, were not significantly affected by K rates in both years. Overall, K rate of 178 kg·ha−1 was sufficient to grow tomato during the winter season in calcareous soils with 78 to 82 mg·kg−1 of ammonium bicarbonate-diethylenetriaminepentaacetic acid (AB-DTPA)-extracted K in Florida.

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Robert C. Ebel, Jacqueline K. Burns, Kelly T. Morgan, and Fritz Roka

This study was conducted to determine the relationship of 5-chloro-3-methyl-4-nitro-1H-pyrazole (CMNP) concentration and canopy shaker frequency on fruit detachment force, pre-harvest fruit drop, and mechanical harvesting fruit removal of ‘Hamlin’ and ‘Valencia’ sweet orange cultivars. CMNP was applied at 0, 200, and 300 mg·L−1 in a carrier volume of 2806 L·ha−1. Four days after CMNP application, fruit were harvested with a canopy shaker that was operated at 3.0, 3.7, and 4.3 Hz at a tractor speed of 1.6 km·h−1. The experiment was repeated 3× for ‘Hamlin’ (December, early January, and late January) and twice for ‘Valencia’ (March and April) during the 2008–2009 harvest season. Fruit detachment force was reduced by at least 50% for all CMNP-treated trees compared with the untreated controls at the time of harvest and was lower for 300 mg·L−1 than 200 mg·L−1 on three of the five dates tested. Pre-harvest fruit drop evaluated immediately before mechanical harvesting was higher for all CMNP-treated ‘Hamlin’ than untreated controls at all harvest dates, whereas 300 mg·L−1 application resulted in higher pre-harvest fruit drop in ‘Valencia’ when compared with 200 mg·L−1 or the untreated controls on both application dates. CMNP-induced fruit drop was higher in ‘Hamlin’ than ‘Valencia’. CMNP had a greater effect on fruit removal at lower canopy shaker frequencies. The interaction of total fruit weight removed was not significant on any date as a result of variability among trees in the study. These data indicate that the amount of loosening by CMNP was concentration-dependent and facilitated removal, especially with lower canopy shaker frequencies. Development of viable commercial practices should use the percent of the total crop harvested and not the actual weight of fruit removed in determining efficacy of CMNP and harvest efficiency of the mechanical harvesters.

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Monica Ozores-Hampton, Eric Simonne, Fritz Roka, Kelly Morgan, Steven Sargent, Crystal Snodgrass, and Eugene McAvoy

With increasing environmental concerns, the sharp cost increase of fertilizer and the absence of a soil test to predict nitrogen (N) needs of tomato (Solanum lycopersicon L.) grown on Florida’s sandy soils, a partnership was created with growers, state agencies, and the University of Florida, Institution of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS). The objectives of this study were to identify a range of N rates that would result in highest yields and postharvest quality, and maximum economical return for tomato, grown with subsurface irrigation (management of a perched water table above an impermeable soil layer or hard pan) during the spring season (low probability of leaching rain events). The study was conducted in Spring 2007 and 2008 in Palmetto, FL, with N rates ranging from 22 to 470 kg·ha−1 at pre-plant as ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3). Weather conditions were typical of a dry spring season in central Florida with no leaching rain events recorded in either year; however, rain patterns were different between the 2 years. In the absence of leaching rain and frost protection (either may raise the water table), petiole sap NO3-N decreased over time and the rate of decline depended on the N fertilizer rate. Extra-large and total marketable fruits yields showed a quadratic plateau response to N rates with maximum yields at two harvests (97% of the yields) grown with 172 and 298 kg N/ha in 2007 and 2008, respectively. During subsequent ripening, N rate did not correlate consistently to fruit ripening rate, fruit firmness, nor compositional quality at table-ripe stage. The high value of tomatoes relative to the cost of N fertilizer created a situation in which the profit-maximizing rate of N was not significantly different from the production-maximizing N rate. Whether the profit-maximizing level of N was higher or lower than the UF/IFAS-recommended rate depended on the growing season. With favorable growing conditions (i.e., conditions in 2008), a grower’s net return would have decreased between $1000 and $2000 per hectare by using UF/IFAS-recommended rates depending on market conditions. However, if the UF/IFAS-recommended rate of 224 kg·ha−1 resulted in the highest yield, applying upwards of 300 kg·ha−1 would have increased grower production costs by at least $67/ha. Although fertilizer costs are known before the crop is grown, tomato prices are realized only at the end of the growing season and profit margins can only be calculated after the fact.

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Luther C. Carson, Monica Ozores-Hampton, Kelly T. Morgan, and Steven A. Sargent

Controlled-release fertilizer (CRF) use is a best management practice that may reduce nitrogen (N) loss to the environment. Several factors affect CRF nutrient release; therefore, including CRF in a fertilization program may have challenges. Thus, the study objective was to evaluate the effects of CRF N rate, source, release duration, and placement on seepage-irrigated marketable tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) yield, leaf tissue N (LTN) concentration, post-season soil N content, and postharvest fruit firmness and color. There were two soluble fertilizer (SF) controls [University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences (UF/IFAS) (224 kg·ha−1) and grower standard (280 kg·ha−1)] and six and seven CRF treatments (alone or in combination with SF) in Fall 2011 and 2012, respectively. Cumulative rainfall totaled 31.4 and 37.4 cm during the 2011 and 2012 seasons with average air temperatures of 22.4 and 22.1 °C, respectively. Soil temperatures ranged from 14.2 to 40.6 °C in 2011 and 11.1 to 36.6 °C in 2012 with a strong correlation (r = 0.95) to air temperature. Controlled-release urea resulted in 7.5% to 17.9% plant mortality in 2011 and reduced yields in 2012 compared with CRF N–phosphorus–potassium (NPK) at a similar N rate. LTN concentrations were above or within the sufficiency range for all treatments. In 2011, using CRF-urea at 190 kg·ha−1 N produced similar marketable tomato yield in all fruit categories except season total large tomatoes, which produced significantly fewer marketable tomatoes with 13.5 Mg·ha−1 compared with UF/IFAS and grower standard with 17.9 and 14.2 Mg·ha−1, respectively. In 2012, CRF-NPK (168 kg·ha−1 N) significantly reduced first and second harvest combined large and season total large and total marketable yields compared with the UF/IFAS rate and grower standard treatments. Marketable yield was not significantly affected by CRF (urea or NPK) release duration, but CRF-NPK 180-day release duration significantly increased residual soil N in 2012 compared with CRF-NPK 120-day release with 74.2 and 34.3 kg·ha−1 N, respectively. Rototilling CRF-urea into the bed, which was only evaluated in 2011, significantly increased total season yields compared with CRF-urea broadcast in row before bedding (BIR) with 43.0 and 46.5 Mg·ha−1, respectively. There were no significant yield differences when 50% or 75% of the total N was CRF placed in the hybrid fertilizer system, which is a system with CRF placed BIR with the remaining N as SF-N banded on the bed shoulders. No significant differences among treatments were found for total residual soil N in 2011; however, higher soil N remained in CRF (NPK and urea) treatments compared with SF treatments in 2012, except for Treatment 9. No significant differences were found among treatments for fruit firmness or color in 2011 or 2012. CRF-NPK at 190 to 224 kg·ha−1 N with a 120-day release may be recommended as a result of similar or greater first harvest and total season marketable yields compared with IFAS-recommended rates and low residual soil N. Further research must be conducted to explore CRF placement and percentage urea composition, although use of the hybrid system or rototilling may be recommended.

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Kelly T. Morgan, T. Adair Wheaton, Larry R. Parsons, and William S. Castle

Water Conserv II is a municipal reclaimed water project operated by the city of Orlando and Orange county, FL. The Water Conserv II project has been supplying high-quality reclaimed water for irrigation of citrus orchards, nurseries, greenhouse operations, golf courses, and residential landscapes in Orange and Lake counties since 1986. Selected commercial citrus orchards in the Water Conserv II service area receiving either groundwater or reclaimed water have been monitored quarterly since the project began. This yearly monitoring was undertaken to determine any adverse long-term effects on citrus tree growth or production associated with irrigation using this reclaimed water. Citrus blocks were rated for horticultural condition quarterly, fruit quality was determined before harvest, and soil and leaf samples were analyzed yearly from 1994 to 2004. Citrus growers irrigating with reclaimed water were encouraged to use higher-than-recommended amounts of water as a means of disposal of this reclaimed water resulting in increased weed growth and dilution of juice solids per box of fruit. Leaf boron and magnesium were significantly higher after irrigation with reclaimed water. Calcium and boron from the reclaimed water have eliminated the need in orchards receiving reclaimed water for liming of the soil and applying annual foliar sprays containing boron.

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Ibukun T. Ayankojo, Kelly T. Morgan, Monica Ozores-Hampton, and Kati W. Migliaccio

Florida is the largest fresh-market tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.)–producing state in the United States. Although vegetable production requires frequent water supply throughout the crop production cycle to produce maximum yield and ensure high-quality produce, overirrigation can reduce crop yield and increase negative environmental consequences. This study was conducted to evaluate and compare irrigation schedules by a real-time and location-specific evapotranspiration (ET)-based SmartIrrigation Vegetable App (SI) with a historic ET-based schedule (HI). A field study was conducted on drip-irrigated, fresh-market tomato during the Fall of 2015 and Spring of 2016 on a Florida sandy soil. The two scheduling methods (SI and HI) were evaluated for irrigation water application, plant biomass accumulation, nutrient uptake and partitioning, and yield in open-field tomato production. Treatments included 100% HI (T1); 66% SI (T2); 100% SI (T3); and 150% SI (T4). Treatments were arranged in a randomized complete block design with four replicates per treatment during the two production seasons. In both seasons, depth of irrigation water applied increased in the order of T2 < T3 < T1 < T4. Total water savings was greater for T3 schedule compared with T1 schedule at 22% and 16% for fall and spring seasons, respectively. No differences were observed among treatments for tomato biomass accumulation at all sampling periods during both seasons. However, T3 resulted in significantly greater total marketable yield compared with other treatments in both seasons. The impact of irrigation application rate was greater in fruit and leaf nitrogen accumulation compared with that of stem and root biomass. Based on the plant performance and water savings, this study concludes that under a sandy soil condition, a real-time location-specific irrigation scheduler improves irrigation scheduling accuracy in relation to actual crop water requirement in open-field tomato production.

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Qiang Zhu, Yuncong C. Li, Rao S. Mylavarapu, Kelly Morgan, and Mingjian Geng

Preplant soil testing is essential for optimizing phosphorus (P) fertilization and minimizing the potential for soil P losses. Currently, there is no effective soil P extractant for calcareous soils in Florida. This study was conducted to compare Mehlich-3, ammonium bicarbonate–diethylenetriaminepentaacetic acid (AB-DTPA), and Olsen for evaluating P availability, estimating soil-test P (STP) critical levels, and calibrating P application rates for fresh-market tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) production in a calcareous soil. Tomatoes were grown during Winter 2014 and 2015 with P application rates of 0, 29, 49, 78, 98, and 118 kg·ha‒1 P. Water-extractable P (water-P) and dissolved reactive P (DRP) in leachate were used to determine the STP change point of leaching potential. Results showed the greatest correlation occurred between Mehlich-3 and Olsen of the three STP extractants. For Mehlich-3-P, the medium STP level (producing 75% to 90% relative yield) was predicted from 76 to 89 mg·kg‒1 and the change point was predicted at 88 or 104 mg·kg‒1 by split-line models. The P requirement was calculated from 52 to 112 kg·ha‒1 when Mehlich-3-P was rated as low level (producing 50% to 75% relative yield), which was from 42 to 76 mg·kg‒1. The multiple regression models using AB-DTPA-P and Olsen-P could not predict either the medium STP level or the practical P application rates for the low level. Consequently, based on 2 years of data, Mehlich-3 was the most effective extractant for estimating soil P availability and calibrating P rates in calcareous soils with an extremely high calcium carbonate (CaCO3) content.

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Luther C. Carson, Monica Ozores-Hampton, Kelly T. Morgan, and Jerry B. Sartain

Controlled-release fertilizers (CRFs), a vegetable production best management practice in Florida, are soluble fertilizers (SFs) coated with a polymer, resin, or a hybrid of polymer coating sulfur-coated urea. In 1994, a Controlled Release Fertilizer Taskforce developed an accelerated temperature-controlled incubation method (ATCIM) to predict column-incubated CRF nitrogen (N) release for regulatory purposes. Determination of CRF field N release uses a field method such as a pouch field study, which requires multiple samples and high costs for laboratory N analysis. If the ATCIM may be used to predict CRF N release in the field, then vegetables growers will have a faster and lower-cost method to determine N release compared with the pouch field method. Therefore, the objective of this study was to evaluate the correlation of the ATCIM and the pouch field method as a predictor of N release from CRFs in tomato production in Florida. In 2011 and 2013, 12 and 14 CRFs, respectively, were incubated in pouches placed in polyethylene mulched raised beds in Immokalee, FL, and extracted in the ATCIM during 2013. The ATCIM CRF results were used individually and grouped by release duration to create predicted N release curves in a two-step correlation process. The two-step processes predicted the percentage N release of individual CRF with R 2 of 0.95 to 0.99 and 0.61 to 0.99 and CRFs grouped by release duration with R 2 of –0.64 to 0.99 and –0.38 to 0.95 in 2011 and 2013, respectively. Modeling CRF N release grouped by release duration would not be recommended for CRF 180-d release (DR), because coating technologies behaviors differ in response to high fall soil temperature in polyethylene mulched beds. However, with further model calibration, grouping CRFs of 90 to 140 DR to simulate the CRF N release profile may allow the ATCIM to predict CRF N release without performing the pouch field method, which currently negated the usefulness of the ATCIM in a tomato production system.

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Kelly T. Morgan, Smita Barkataky, Davie Kadyampakeni, Robert Ebel, and Fritz Roka

One of the primary reasons for the slow adoption of mechanical harvesting by Florida citrus growers is the physical injuries associated with it, including loss of leaves, twigs, flowers, and young fruits, limb breakage, and injuries to the bark and root. However, it has been shown that well-managed trees are capable of tolerating defoliation, limb loss, and root and bark injury caused by mechanical harvesting. Irrigation management is one of the most crucial factors that influence citrus tree health. A multiple-year field study was conducted on ‘Valencia’ sweet orange trees in a commercial citrus grove near Immokalee, FL, to determine the effect of initial tree canopy density and short-term drought stress on tree health, water uptake, and productivity of mechanically harvested trees. Three blocks were based on canopy density and overall appearance and indicated as low, moderate, and high canopy density. The experiment was laid in a split-plot design with four replications of six-tree plots of hand-harvested or mechanically harvested trees, taking drought stress or full irrigation as main treatments. The experimental design was repeated with trees in each plot of one of the three canopy density categories. After harvest, each six-tree plot was split into two three-tree subplots, where one subplot was drought-stressed and the other was fully irrigated. Harvesting was conducted in the Spring of 2010, 2011, and 2012 with the same experimental design and data collection procedures. The effects of short-term drought on water use and stem water potential were masked by heavy rains in Spring 2010 and thus no differences in the irrigation treatments were observed. In 2011 and 2012, stem water potential was unaffected by harvesting method. Water use was unaffected by harvesting method across the 3 years. Drought stress significantly increased pull force required to remove fruit and stem water potential after harvest. Although mechanically harvested trees lost leaf mass, with no rain before harvest, results from Spring 2011 and 2012 indicated that short-term drought stress had no effect on citrus leaf area irrespective of harvest method. Drought stress significantly increased fruit detachment force in low and moderate density but not in high-density trees resulting in increased force required to remove fruit from trees with moderate- to low-density canopies. Yield increased from 2010 to 2011 for mechanically harvested trees compared with hand-harvested for low-canopy density trees by 17% and moderate-canopy density trees by 8%, whereas high-density plots indicated similar yield after mechanical harvesting. Comparatively, yield in 2012 decreased in the low and moderate densities compared with yield in 2011 but increased in the high density by 14% and 53% in hand- and machine-harvested trees, respectively. Despite finding 2- to 3-fold more debris in the mechanically harvested trees than the hand-harvested trees, yields and other measured parameters were unaffected suggesting that mechanical harvesting of citrus trees did not have an adverse effect on growth and production of well-watered citrus trees.

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Kelly T. Morgan, T. Adair Wheaton, William S. Castle, and Laurence R. Parsons

This study examined the effect of irrigation rates, nitrogen (N) fertilizer rates, and methods of applying N on growth and productivity of young (3 to 5 years old) and maturing (8 to 10 years old) citrus trees. A long-term study was conducted with the following objectives: 1) to measure the main effects of N rate, N application method, and irrigation on citrus tree growth and production from planting to maturity; 2) to establish growth and production relationships for long-term N rates and irrigation on well-drained sandy Entisols; and 3) to determine the effect of split fertilizer applications at two soil moisture regimes on citrus growth and production for two tree age classes as trees mature. Irrigation was applied using two selected ranges of soil moisture tensions and annual N rate varied by tree age as percentages of recommended. Methods of applying N included a dry granular fertilizer (DGF) containing soluble N applied four times annually or a controlled-release fertilizer (CRF) applied once per year and fertigation applied either four (FG04) or 30 (FG30) times annually. Canopy size and yield were higher with the moderate irrigation rate compared with the low rate for both young and maturing trees. Critical N rates for both canopy volume and yield were between 178 and 200 kg·ha−1. The CRF and FG30 treatments produced larger trees and higher yields compared with FG04 and DGF in the young tree study, indicating that younger trees benefitted from frequent split fertilizer applications. As the trees matured and filled their allocated space, the two irrigation rates were continued and N was applied at six rates using either DGF or FG30. For these 8- to 10-year-old trees, critical values of N application rates were 210 and 204 kg·ha−1 for DGF and FG30, respectively. The absence of a significant interaction between N rate and application method indicated that N uptake efficiency was similar for all application methods tested. DGF and FG30 treatments resulted in similar maturing tree yields and fruit total soluble solids. Canopy volumes, for the same trees, were significantly greater all 3 years with the FG30 treatment compared with DGF. Thus, if increase in tree size is desired, increased number of split applications will likely promote tree growth; however, little increase in fruit yield may be obtained.