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  • Author or Editor: Kelly T. Morgan x
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Major horticultural crops in Florida are vegetables, small fruit, melons, and tree fruit crops. Approximately half of the agricultural area and nearly all of the horticultural crop land is irrigated. Irrigation systems include low-volume microirrigation, sprinkler systems, and subsurface irrigation. The present review was divided into two papers, in which the first part focuses on vegetable crop irrigation and the second part focuses on fruit tree crop irrigation. This first part also provides an overview of irrigation methods used in Florida. Factors affecting irrigation efficiency and uniformity such as design and maintenance are discussed. A wide range of soil moisture sensors (e.g., tensiometers, granular matrix, and capacitance) are currently being used in the state for soil moisture monitoring. Current examples of scheduling tools and automated control systems being used on selected crops in Florida are provided. Research data on the effect of irrigation scheduling and fertigation on nutrient movement, particularly nitrate, are reviewed. Concluding this review is a discussion of potential for adoption of irrigation scheduling and control systems for vegetable crops by Florida growers and future research priorities.

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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.

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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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Effective nutrient and irrigation management practices are critical for optimum growth and yield in open-field fresh-market tomato production. Although nutrient and irrigation management practices have been well-studied for tomato production in Florida, more studies of the current highly efficient production systems would be considered essential. Therefore, a two-season (Fall 2016 and Spring 2017) study was conducted in Immokalee, FL, to evaluate the effects of the nitrogen (N) rates under different irrigation regimes and to determine the optimum N requirement for open-field fresh-market tomato production. To evaluate productivity, the study investigated the effects of N rates and irrigation regimes on plant and root growth, yield, and production efficiency of fresh-market tomato. The study demonstrated that deficit irrigation (DI) targeting 66% daily evapotranspiration (ET) replacement significantly increased tomato root growth compared with full irrigation (FI) at 100% ET. Similarly, DI application increased tomato growth early in the season compared with FI. Therefore, irrigation applications may be adjusted downward from FI, especially early during a wet season, thereby potentially improving irrigation water use efficiency (iWUE) and reducing leaching potential of Florida sandy soils. However, total marketable yield significantly increased under FI compared with DI. This suggests that although DI may increase early plant growth, the application of DI throughout the season may result in yield reduction. Although N application rates had no significant effects on biomass production, tomato marketable yield with an application rate of 134 kg·ha−1 N was significantly lower compared with other N application rates (179, 224, and 269 kg·ha−1). It was also observed that there were no significant yield benefits with N application rates higher than 179 kg·ha−1. During the fall, iWUE was higher under DI (33.57 kg·m−3) than under FI (25.57 kg·m−3); however, iWUE was similar for both irrigation treatments during spring (FI = 14.04 kg·m−3; DI = 15.29 kg·m−3). The N recovery (REC-N) rate was highest with 134 kg·ha−1 N; however, REC-N was similar with 179, 224, and 269 kg·ha−1 N rates during both fall and spring. Therefore, these study results could suggest that DI could be beneficial to tomato production only when applied during early growth stages, but not throughout the growing season. Both yield and efficiency results indicated that the optimum N requirement for open-field fresh-market tomato production in Florida may not exceed 179 kg·ha−1 N.

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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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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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Because of the decline in production and negative economic effects, there is an urgent need for strategies to reduce the impact of Huanglongbing (HLB) on citrus [Citrus ×sinensis (L.) Osbeck]. The objective of this study was to evaluate the impact of different irrigation schedules on total available soil water (TAW) and water uptake characteristics of citrus trees affected by HLB in central and southwest Florida. The study was initiated in Jan. 2014 for 2 years on 5-year-old sweet orange trees located in three commercial groves at Arcadia, Avon Park, and Immokalee, FL. Each grove had three irrigation scheduling treatments including the University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) recommendations, Daily irrigation, and an Intermediate treatment. All groves received similar volumes of water per week based on evapotranspiration (ETo) reported by the Florida Automated Weather Network. Sap flow (SF) measurements were taken for two trees per treatment for at least 10 days per site (twice/year). During those periods, leaf area, leaf area index (LAI), and stem water potential (Ψ) were determined. Also, TAW was determined using drainage curve and capacitance soil moisture sensors installed at incremental soil depths of 0–15, 15–30, and 30–45 cm. Results showed significant differences in average SF, LAI, Ψ, and TAW measurements among treatments. Diurnal SF value under daily irrigation treatment increased by 91%, 51%, and 105% compared with UF/IFAS irrigation in Arcadia, Avon Park, and Immokalee, respectively. Soil water contents (WCs) under daily treatment increased by 59%, 59%, and 70% compared with UF/IFAS irrigation treatment in Arcadia, Avon Park, and Immokalee, respectively. Our results indicated that daily irrigation improved tree water dynamics compared with IFAS or Intermediate irrigation scheduling treatments and reduced tree stress with the same volume of water.

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Determination of nutrient release duration from controlled-release fertilizers (CRFs) or soluble fertilizers encapsulated in polymer, resin, or sulfur covered fertilizer coated with a polymer differs among manufacturers, but may be determined as 75% to 80% nitrogen (N) release at a constant temperature (e.g., 20 to 25 °C). Increases or decreases in temperature compared with the manufacturer release determination temperature increase or decrease CRF N release; thus, coated fertilizer may release more rapidly than stated during the fall season when soil temperatures in seepage-irrigated tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) production can reach 40.1 °C. The objectives of this study were to evaluate N release duration of CRFs by measuring N release from CRFs incubated in pouches under polyethylene mulch-covered raised beds and to determine the CRF duration suitable for incorporation into a fall tomato fertility program. In 2011 and 2013, 12 and 14 CRFs from Agrium Advanced Technologies, Everris, Florikan, and Chisso-Asahi Fertilizer were sealed in fiberglass mesh pouches (12.7 × 14 cm) that were buried 10 cm below the bed surface in a tomato crop grown using commercial production practices. A data logger collected soil temperature 10 cm below the bed surface. Pouches were collected and N content was measured eight times through two fall seasons. A nonlinear regression model was fit to the data to determine N release rate. During the 2011 and 2013 seasons, minimum, average, and maximum soil temperatures were 21.2 and 19.2, 25.7 and 23.5, and 32.2 and 27.7 °C, respectively. Seasonal total CRF N release was between 77.6% and 93.8% during 2011 and 58.3% and 94.3% in 2013. In 2011, PCU90 and in 2013, PCU90 and PCNPK120 had the highest seasonal total percentage N release (PNR) and FL180 had the lowest in both years. A nonlinear regression fit N release from CRF with R 2 = 0.85 to 0.99 during 2011 and 0.49 to 0.99 during 2013. Nitrogen release from all CRFs was faster than the manufacturer’s stated release, probably as a result of high fall bed temperatures. A CRF or CRF mixture containing CRFs of 120- to 180-day release duration may be recommended, but the CRFs must release greater than 75% N during the season.

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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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Florida best management practices include the use of controlled-release fertilizers (CRFs), which are soluble nutrients coated with a resin, polymer, sulfur, or a polymer covering a sulfur-coated urea. The purpose of this study was to compare the effects of three CRFs (coated, homogenized NH4NO3 and urea, and coated KNO3) rates in a hybrid CRF/soluble nitrogen fertilizer (SNF) system and two SNF rates [University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Science (UF/IFAS) and grower standard] on seepage-irrigated fall tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) yields, leaf-tissue nitrogen (LTN) concentration, postseason soil nitrogen (N) content, and postharvest fruit quality. Treatments of 112, 168, and 224 kg·ha−1 CRF N plus 56 kg·ha−1 SNF for total N of 168 (CRF112/SNF56), 224, and 280 kg·ha−1 were compared with IFAS (224 kg·ha−1) and grower standard (280 kg·ha−1) of pre-plant SNF. Tomatoes were planted on 29 Aug. 2011 and 3 Sept. 2012 on polyethylene mulch. Air temperature averaged 23.0 and 22.6 °C for the 2011 and 2012 fall seasons with 33.4 and 37.4 cm of rainfall, respectively. Soil temperatures ranged from 15.2 to 40.1 °C in 2011 and 13.6 to 36.6 °C in 2012. Leaf tissue N concentration exceeded the UF/IFAS-recommended sufficiency range for all treatments and sample dates, except CRF112/SNF56 at the last sample date of 2012. There were no differences in extra-large and total marketable yield at first harvest nor in total extra-large yield (three harvests combined) among treatments in 2011; however, total marketable yield for UF/IFAS, CRF112/SNF56, 168/SNF56, and 224/SNF56 was greater than that of the grower standard. In 2012, CRF112/SNF56 and CRF168/SNF56 had the greatest first harvest extra-large and total yield, but there were no differences between season total marketable yields. No differences between treatments were found for total N remaining in the soil postseason in 2011 or 2012. The grower standard, UF/IFAS, and CRF112/SNF56 were firmer at red ripe (less fruit deformation) in 2011, but there were no differences in 2012. In 2011, CRF112/SNF56 and CRF224/SNF56 were rated highest in red color among the treatments, and in 2012 there were no differences. A hybrid system containing lower and equal N rates (112 to 168 kg·ha−1 CRF N and 56 kg·ha−1 SNF56) compared with UF/IFAS-recommended rates produced comparable marketable yield and fruit quality.

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