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  • Author or Editor: Kelly T. Morgan x
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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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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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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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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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Since the first occurrence of Huanglongbing (HLB) in the Florida commercial citrus industry in 2004, fruit yield and yield components of HLB-affected citrus have declined in endemically affected citrus tree groves. Optimal fertilization is thus critical for improving tree performance because nutrients are vital for tree growth and development, and play a significant role in tree disease resistance against various biotic and abiotic stresses. The objective of the current study was to determine whether leaf nutrient concentration, tree growth, yield, and postharvest quality of HLB-affected citrus trees were improved by the split application of nutrients. The four micronutrient application rates were used as fixed factors and the three nitrogen (N) rates were used as random factors for leaf nutrient analyses, tree growth, fruit yield, and postharvest analyses. Significant leaf manganese (Mn) and zinc (Zn) concentrations were detected when trees received foliar and soil-applied micronutrients regardless of the N rates. There was a strong regression analysis of leaf Mn and Zn nutrient concentration and nutrient rates with R2 : 0.61 and 0.59, respectively. As a result, a significant leaf area index associated with foliar and soil-applied micronutrient rates had a positive correlation with leaf area index and soil pH with R2 : 0.58 and 0.63 during the spring and summer seasons, respectively. Trees that received a moderate (224 kg·ha−1) N rate showed the least fruit decay percentage and total soluble solids (TSS) of 8% more than the lowest (168 kg·ha−1) and highest (280 kg·ha−1) N rates, even though fruit yield variations were barely detected as these micronutrients promoted vegetative growth. Moreover, the TSS to titratable acidity (TA) ratio of foliar and soil-applied micronutrient-treated trees showed 2% and 7% greater values than the foliar-only treated and control trees, respectively. Although micronutrients exacerbated stem-end rind breakdown (SERB), these nutrients significantly improved fruit storage when the fruits were stored for extended periods (8–11 weeks). Thus, moderate N rate, foliar (1×), and soil-applied (1×) micronutrient treatments improved tree growth, fruit postharvest, and fruit storage characteristics.

Open Access

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

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