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Open access

Dinesh Phuyal, Thiago Assis Rodrigues Nogueira, Arun D. Jani, Davie M. Kadyampakeni, Kelly T. Morgan, and Rhuanito Soranz Ferrarezi

Huanglongbing (HLB), or citrus greening disease, affects practically all fruit-bearing trees in commercial citrus orchards in Florida with no cure identified yet. High-density plantings and enhanced nutritional programs such as application of controlled-release fertilizer (CRF) with higher micronutrient levels can mitigate disease symptoms and extend the tree life span of sweet oranges (Citrus sinensis). The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of tree planting density and application of CRF blends differing in N to K ratio and micronutrient content on grapefruit (Citrus paradisi) plant health, canopy volume, fruit yield, and fruit quality in an HLB-affected orchard. A study was conducted in Florida for two growing seasons (2017–18 and 2018–19) to evaluate the response of ‘Ray Ruby’ grapefruit on Kuharske citrange (Citrus sinensis × Poncirus trifoliata) to three planting densities (300, 440, and 975 trees per ha) and two CRF blends [12 nitrogen (N)–1.31 phosphorus (P)–7.47 potassium (K) and 16N–1.31P–16.6K] with different nutrient sources and composition. According to quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction testing, all sampled trees tested positive for Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus, the pathogen associated with HLB. Trees planted at 975 trees per ha had 33% lower canopy volume per tree but 160% greater fruit yield per hectare and 190% higher yield of solids compared with 300 trees per ha. Fruit produced in high-density planting (975 trees per ha) was 18% more acidic with higher soluble solid compared with low-density planting (300 trees per ha). The use of a CRF blend with higher amounts of micronutrients along with lower K increased canopy volume in both seasons and resulted in 24% and 29% reduction in fruit yield per hectare and yield of solids, respectively, in 2017–18. Our results indicate that high-density plantings increase fruit yield per area, and regardless of the N to K ratio, the use of CRF blends supplemented with micronutrients may not increase fruit yield in HLB-affected grapefruit.

Open access

Dinesh Phuyal, Thiago Assis Rodrigues Nogueira, Arun D. Jani, Davie M. Kadyampakeni, Kelly T. Morgan, and Rhuanito Soranz Ferrarezi

Since the arrival of Huanglongbing (HLB) disease in Florida, several management approaches, including modification of orchard architecture design and nutritional therapy, have been explored. High-density plantings anticipate early economic returns from HLB-affected orchards. With no cure available for HLB, balanced nutrient application through soil and foliar spraying can mitigate the disease. A 2-year study was conducted to investigate the effects of three grapefruit (Citrus paradisi) planting densities [single-row (300 and 440 trees per ha), and double-row high-density (975 trees per ha)], two controlled-release fertilizer (CRF) blends, and foliar-applied micronutrients (FAM) (a blend of B, Mn, and Zn at 0, 1.5, 3, and 6 times the recommended rates) on grapefruit growth and fruit yield, physiological parameters, and foliar nutrient concentrations in an HLB-affected orchard. All the trees tested positive for HLB based on real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) test. The highest planting density resulted in the lowest trunk diameter and canopy volume. Despite lower yield per tree in 2019–20, 975 trees per ha planting induced the greatest fruit and solid yields per ha. Also, the fruit produced from 975 trees per ha planting tended to be acidic with the deposition of more soluble solids. Use of CRF with higher micronutrients increased canopy volume with the expense of reduced fruit number in 2019–20. FAM did not affect cycle threshold (Ct) value and tree growth parameters. Fruit yield, photosynthesis rate, and stomatal conductance (g S) decreased, and all leaf nutrient concentrations except B increased in 2019–20 with all FAM rates tested. In conclusion, our study showed that high-density planting optimizes yield under HLB-endemic conditions. In addition, supplemental soil and foliar micronutrient application do not enhance yield of HLB-affected trees over a 2-year timeframe, warranting further research for confirmation of results.

Open access

Rhuanito S. Ferrarezi, Arun D. Jani, H. Thomas James III, Cristina Gil, Mark A. Ritenour, and Alan L. Wright

The prevalence of Huanglongbing (HLB) in Florida has forced growers to search for new management strategies to optimize fruit yield in young orchards and enable earlier economic returns given the likelihood of HLB-induced yield reductions during later years. There has been considerable interest in modifying orchard architecture design and fertilizer and irrigation management practices as strategies for increasing profitability. Our objectives were to evaluate how different combinations of horticultural practices including tree density, fertilization methods, and irrigation systems affect growth, foliar nutrient content, fruit yield, and fruit quality of young ‘Valencia’ sweet orange [Citrus sinensis (L.) Osbeck] trees during the early years of production under HLB-endemic conditions. The study was conducted in Fort Pierce, FL, from 2014 to 2020 on a 1- to 7-year-old orchard and evaluated the following treatments: standard tree density (358 trees/ha) and controlled-release fertilizer with microsprinkler irrigation (STD_dry_MS), high tree density (955 trees/ha) with fertigation and microsprinkler irrigation (HDS_fert_MS), and high tree density with fertigation and double-line drip irrigation (HDS_fert_DD). Annual foliar nutrient concentrations were usually within or higher than the recommended ranges throughout the study, with a tendency for decreases in several nutrients over time regardless of treatment, suggesting all fertilization strategies adequately met the tree nutrient demand. During fruit-bearing years, canopy volume, on a per-tree basis, was higher under STD_dry_MS (6.2–7.2 m3) than HDS_fert_MS (4.3–5.3 m3) or HDS_fert_DD (4.9–5.9 m3); however, high tree density resulted in greater canopy volume on an area basis, which explained the 86% to 300% increase in fruit yield per ha that resulted in moving from standard to high tree density. Although fruit yields per ha were generally greatest under HDS_fert_MS and HDS_fert_DD, they were lower than the 10-year Florida state average (26.5 Mg·ha−1) for standard tree density orchards, possibly due to the HLB incidence and the rootstock chosen. Although tree growth parameters and foliar nutrient concentrations varied in response to treatments, management practices that included high tree density and fertigation irrespective of irrigation systems produced the highest fruit yields and highest yield of solids. Soluble solids content (SSC) and titratable acidity (TA) were lower, and the SSC-to-TA ratio was highest under STD_dry_MS in 2016–17, with no treatment effects on quality parameters detected in other years. Both drip and microsprinkler fertigation methods sufficiently met tree nutrient demand at high tree density, but additional research is needed to determine optimal fertilization rates and better rootstock cultivars in young high-density sweet orange orchards under HLB-endemic conditions in the Indian River Citrus District.