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The relationship between intensity of flowering and various aspects of cropping are reviewed for fruit species. Relatively light flowering can limit yield in most fruit species. This commonly occurs in young trees that have not achieved full production and in “off” years for varieties that display alternate bearing. When trees mature, many species will carry fruit numbers that exceed commercially desired levels, resulting in excessively small fruit and accentuating alternate bearing. The economic disadvantages of excess cropload have resulted in considerable research on fruit thinning and widespread commercial application of this practice. Heavy flowering intensity in some crop species results in economic disadvantages beyond the problems of excessive cropload and resultant small fruit size. Many species flower profusely and have initial fruit set that greatly exceeds tree capacity, resulting in abscission of numerous flowers and fruitlets. Abscised organs can represent a substantial amount of carbohydrates and nutrients, compromising availability of these materials at critical periods in flower and fruit development. The potential implications of this process are best exemplified in `Navel' orange [Citrus sinensis (L.) Osbeck], where an increase in flowering beyond intermediate intensity results in a reduction in both initial fruit set and final fruit yield at harvest. In several species, there is evidence that fruit size may be reduced by excessive flowering, even when cropload is quickly adjusted to an acceptable level. These data suggest that further research on the advantages of controlling flowering intensity is warranted.
Sour orange (Citrus aurantium) has been the dominant citrus rootstock in the Indian River region of Florida since the initial plantings in the 1880s. Use of this rootstock in new plantings has been rare since 1990 because of heightened concern about decline strains of citrus tristeza virus (CTV), to which this rootstock is highly susceptible. Because the proportion of trees remaining on sour orange rootstock and the rate of decline among them are important in predicting the economic consequences for the Indian River citrus industry, two surveys of rootstock usage were conducted for citrus in this growing region. In the first survey, growers were asked about rootstock usage and problems observed across all types of citrus, and responses represented 35% of acreage. In the second survey, growers were restricted to rootstock usage and grower observations on decline for grapefruit (C. paradisi), and responses represented 53% of acreage. Even though 44% of all current Indian River grove area has been planted since 1987, when use of sour orange for new plantings largely ceased, 48% of all citrus and 55% of all grapefruit grove area are currently on sour orange rootstock. The percentage of grapefruit trees on sour orange rootstock that showed significantly health decline in 2000 was 8% based on grower reports. The other root-stocks representing substantial commercial grove area have known problems and limitations that are likely to prevent any of them from gaining the prominence once held by sour orange. Swingle citrumelo (C. paradisi × Poncirus trifoliata) at about 25% of grove area, Cleopatra mandarin (Citrus reticulata) at about 8%, and Smooth Flat Seville (Citrus hybrid) at about 3% all represented similar acreage for grapefruit and across all cultivars, while Carrizo citrange (C. sinensis × P. trifoliata) use was reported for 4% of grapefruit and 13% overall. Evaluation and development of new rootstocks is vitally important for the Indian River area, especially for soils with significant clay and calcium content.
Sensor-actuated precision spray systems are designed to prevent pesticide delivery unless canopy is detected in the corresponding spray zone. Where frequent gaps are present in the tree row, using orchard sprayers with these systems is likely to lower pesticide costs and reduce off-target deposition. Pesticide savings from use of a sensor-actuated precision spray system were assessed in 27 grapefruit (Citrus paradisi) blocks selected without prior knowledge of grove characteristics, with nine blocks in each of three age categories: 5-6 years, 10 to 12 years and 20 years and older. The sprayer was optimized for each block by opening only those nozzles appropriate for tree size and furrow depth, so that no spray was delivered under or over the canopy of most trees. The same randomly selected 3.0 to 4.7 acre (1.2 to 1.9 ha) section was then sprayed in each block both with and without activation of the precision spray system. In each block, the precision spray system computer also calculated spray savings based on precision sprayer use with no operator nozzle adjustment. Mean savings in spray material from use of the precision sprayer was 6.6% of total conventional output when comparisons were made with optimal sprayer nozzling in each grove versus 18.6% with no operator adjustment of nozzles. In this study, optimizing nozzling provided a larger proportion of spray savings than use of the precision sprayer on 100% of groves 5 to 12 years old and 44% of groves greater than 20 years old. However, in 70% of groves tested, precision spray systems increased spray savings by more than 2% even when using optimal nozzling. Assignment of precision sprayers to groves with greatest potential for savings will likely provide greatest efficiency, while uniform groves forming hedgerow will offer so little potential savings that even the additional cost of weed management will probably not be recovered.
The severe citrus (Citrus sp.) disease Huanglongbing (HLB), associated with Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus, has resulted in widespread tree decline in Florida and overall citrus production is now the lowest it has been in 50 years. More than 80% of Florida citrus trees are HLB affected, and most growers attempt to sustain production on infected trees through good asian citrus psyllid (Diaphorina citri) control and enhanced fertilization and irrigation management. Although production appears to benefit from these treatments, preharvest fruit drop is considerably greater than on uninfected trees. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data indicate that Florida statewide fruit drop has increased by 10% to 20% of the entire crop in the last three growing seasons, essentially doubling the historical levels. Extensive research is underway to identify solutions to HLB, but it is essential to maintain production on existing trees to sustain the industry in the near term. For decades, several plant growth regulators (PGRs) have been labeled to reduce preharvest fruit drop in commercial citrus. Trials of these materials, other nonlabeled PGRs, and some fungicides were conducted in two seasons to determine if fruit drop could be reduced. Randomized complete block design experiments were established using four to six replications of four- to six-tree groups as experimental units, blocked spatially. In 2013–14, sprays of gibberellic acid (GA), 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), 1-naphthaleneacetic acid (NAA), S-abscisic acid (S-ABA), aminoethoxyvinylglycine (AVG), and 1-methylcyclopropene (1-MCP) were applied once or twice alone or in some combinations at standard rates to trees in various mature blocks of ‘Valencia’ and ‘Pineapple’ sweet orange (Citrus sinensis), ‘Star Ruby’ grapefruit (Citrus paradisi), or ‘Murcott’ tangor (Citrus reticulata ×C. sinensis) in central Florida in the Indian River area. Only 1 of the 10 individual trials had treatments with significantly lower drop rates than controls; and when pooled across all experiments, GA + 2,4-D reduced number of fruit dropped per tree 4%, but only at P = 0.10. NAA, S-ABA, AVG, and 1-MCP had no effect and were not used the following year. Starting in 2014, treatments were initiated earlier in the season with greater effort to minimize variability: GA; 2,4-D; GA + 2,4-D; a natural GA, indolebutyric acid, cytokinin mix; and strobilurin fungicides were applied to 22 mature blocks of ‘Hamlin’ and ‘Valencia’ sweet orange trees. In 2014–15, only three of the 11 individual ‘Hamlin’ trials and one of the 11 ‘Valencia’ trials included a treatment with significant drop reduction compared with controls. However, when all the tests on ‘Hamlin’ were pooled, there was a significant 5% reduction in total crop drop for GA + 2,4-D and significant reductions with many of these PGRs alone, but in only one case with fungicide treatments. When all tests on ‘Valencia’ were combined, 2,4-D reduced drop significantly but only by 2% of the total crop (14% drop vs. 16% drop), but fruit drop in ‘Valencia’ blocks was near the historical average in control trees. Soil conditions and tree conditions were similar across all test sites and there were no apparent relationships between product efficacy and observed tree condition or any other grove characteristics. In addition, four ‘Hamlin’ and four ‘Valencia’ blocks were treated with 1/4 rates of 2,4-D + 6-benzyladenine every 45 days during the growing season (six sprays) and three of the eight individual trials showed significant reductions in drop: when pooled, these treatments reduced drop by 3% in ‘Valencia’ and 6% in ‘Hamlin’. At this time, PGRs cannot be recommended as a consistent way to reduce fruit drop related to HLB, but further work needs to be conducted to refine the most promising treatments.
Hundreds of fruit thinning experiments have been reported for various fruits including apple (Malus × domestica) and citrus (Citrus spp.). Unfortunately, very few of these reports attempt to evaluate the economic implications of thinning. Researchers routinely report significant cropload reduction accompanied by an increase in fruit size. Although these are crucial responses to thinning, they are not always associated with an increase in crop value, which is the commercial justification for thinning. The few economic studies summarized in this review illustrate that the economic effects of fruit thinning vary widely, and successful thinning often reduces returns to the grower, at least in the year of treatment. It is important to quantify the economic benefits of thinning and identify croploads that balance the trade-off between yield and fruit size to provide optimal crop value. Future thinning research should report total yields and fruit size distributions to permit economic assessments and comparisons of treatments.
Off-target deposition of pesticidal spray material is both an economic loss to the grower and a potential environmental problem in southern Florida. This study evaluated the reduction in non-target deposition of copper resulting from different approaches to spraying row-ends in typical Indian River citrus (Citrus) production systems. Using copper as a model pesticide, applications were made in a commercial citrus grove in June and July 2001. Non-target deposition on the water surface within an adjacent drainage canal, as well as on surrounding ground surfaces, was measured using Teflon spray targets. Specific row-end spraying scenarios included: 1) leaving both banks of nozzles on while turning; 2) turning the outside-facing nozzles off (leaving tree-facing nozzles on); 3) turning both banks of nozzles off at the tree trunk; and 4) turning all nozzles off at the end of the foliage of the last tree within the row. Deposition directly onto surface water contained within drainage canals was reduced significantly when nozzles were turned off at the last tree within a row, or when the outside-facing nozzles-only were turned off through the turn. Likewise, deposition was reduced on ground surfaces adjacent to the sprayer under the same scenarios. No differences were observed on ground surfaces on the opposite side of the canal. Significant reductions in direct application of agrichemicals to surface waters within Indian River citrus production groves can be achieved by turning nozzles off when turning from one tree row into the next.
Pesticide spray practices for citrus (Citrus spp.) in the Indian River region of Florida were surveyed in 2001 as the first step in identifying opportunities for improving efficiency and reducing potential environmental impact. The survey covered 73% of grapefruit (C. paradisi) acreage in Indian River, St. Lucie, Martin and Palm Beach counties, comprising 70% of all Indian River commercial grapefruit. Large differences in spray practices were revealed. The focus of this survey was grapefruit spraying, since grapefruit represent 59% of fresh citrus shipped from the Indian River region, and are sprayed more intensively than citrus fruit grown for processing. In commercial groves, almost all foliar sprays to grapefruit are applied using air-assisted sprayers pulled through the groves by tractors. Use of engine-driven and power-takeoff-driven sprayers were reported with equal frequency and accounted for 89% of spray machines used. Lowvolume Curtec sprayers comprised the remainder. Spray volume for grape-fruit varied: 7.6% of acreage was sprayed at 25 to 35 gal/acre (230 to 330 L·ha-1) for all sprays; 4.2% was sprayed at 100 to 170 gal/acre (940 to 1600 L·ha-1) for all sprays; 15.3% was sprayed at 200 to 380 gal/acre (1900 to 3600 L·ha-1) for all sprays; 28.2% was sprayed at 450 to 750 gal/acre (4200 to 7000 L·ha-1) for all sprays; and 44.5% of grapefruit acreage was sprayed in a progressive manner from lower to higher volume as the season progresses. Many mid and high spray volume growers reported unacceptable results when they lowered spray volume. Although correlation was moderate (r = 0.35 to 0.45), regressions indicated that both total foliar pesticide spray material costs, and annual fungicidal copper (Cu) use increased with spray volume used for postbloom fungicides. Mean Cu use per acre was in the middle of the recommended range. All growers reported adjusting nozzling for tree height within a grove, and since Indian River groves are bedded, growers adjusted sprayer output differently for trees on bed tops versus furrows on 85% of acreage. Sprayers were shut off for missing trees on 83% of acreage, but this was done only for two or more adjacent trees on almost half of this area. Sensor-actuated sprayers were used to minimize off-target application on 14.7% of grapefruit acreage, but for an additional 21% of acreage, growers reported trying and abandoning this technology. While 88% of grove acreage was sprayed during the day, 75% of acreage sprayed using less than 100 gal/acre was sprayed at night. Growers reported no defined protocol for ceasing spray operations based on environmental conditions.
Foliar application of spray materials is an integral component of commercial citrus production. An intensive assessment of spray application practices has been stimulated by low fruit value and increased concern about potential surface water contamination in the Indian River citrus region of Florida. Many publications report research results regarding distribution of spray materials within orchards and off-target deposition, but interpretation is challenging because so many factors influence spray results, and integrating this information into practical recommendations is difficult. Canopy geometry and density are prominent factors contributing to variable deposition and spray drift. Environmental factors such as temperature, relative humidity, wind speed, and wind direction also greatly influence spray deposition and drift, and substantial changes can occur within seconds. In addition the physical and/or mechanical set up of the sprayer interact significantly with the other factors. A better understanding of these interactions should help growers optimize spray effectiveness and efficiency while reducing potential off-target effects.
Although citrus (Citrus spp.) is sensitive to salinity, acceptable production can be achieved with moderate salinity levels, depending on the climate, scion cultivar, rootstock, and irrigation-fertilizer management. Irrigation scheduling is a key factor in managing salinity in areas with salinity problems. Increasing irrigation frequency and applying water in excess of the crop water requirement are recommended to leach the salts and minimize the salt concentration in the root zone. Overhead sprinkler irrigation should be avoided when using water containing high levels of salts because salt residues can accumulate on the foliage and cause serious injury. Much of the leaf and trunk damage associated with direct foliar uptake of salts can be reduced by using microirrigation systems. Frequent fertilization using low rates is recommended through fertigation or broadcast application of dry fertilizers. Nutrient sources should have a relatively low salt index and not contain chloride (Cl) or sodium (Na). In areas where Na accumulates in soils, application of calcium (Ca) sources (e.g., gypsum) has been found to reduce the deleterious effect of Na and improve plant growth under saline conditions. Adapting plants to saline environments and increasing salt tolerance through breeding and genetic manipulation is another important method for managing salinity.