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  • Author or Editor: Kelly T. Morgan x
  • HortTechnology x
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Florida is the most important center of processed citrus (Citrus spp.) production in the United States, and all of the crop is irrigated. Irrigation systems include low-volume microirrigation, sprinkler systems, and subsurface irrigation. This review details the relative irrigation efficiencies and factors affecting irrigation uniformity such as design and maintenance. A wide range of soil moisture sensors (e.g., tensiometers, granular matrix, and capacitance) are currently being used for citrus in the state. The use of these sensors and crop evapotranspiration estimation using weather information from the Florida Automated Weather Network in irrigation scheduling are discussed. Current examples of scheduling tools and automated control systems being used on selected fruit crops in Florida are provided. Research data on the effect of irrigation scheduling, soluble fertilizer injection, and soil nutrient movement, particularly nitrate and the use of reclaimed water in Florida, are also reviewed. Concluding this review is a discussion of the potential for adoption of irrigation scheduling and control systems for citrus by Florida growers and future research priorities.

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Understanding the role of Huanglongbing (HLB) caused by Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus on citrus (Citrus sp.) water use is critical for determining if changes in water management of commercial citrus orchards affected by this disease is necessary. Reference evapotranspiration (ETo) is the most used methodology for irrigation scheduling, particularly in light of reports that indicate the lack of water for irrigation will become a major problem in many places around the world including Florida. The objectives of this study were to determine citrus tree water relationship [water use, sap flow, and stem water potential (Ψ)] as affected by ETo and HLB. The study was initiated on Jan. 2014 on two sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) cultivars included Hamlin and Valencia grown in a fine sandy soil texture (sandy, siliceous, and hyberthermic Arenic Alaquods) in a greenhouse. Twelve weighing lysimeters of each cultivar (six HLB-affected and six nonaffected trees) were used to determine selected water relation parameters. Results indicated a significant reduction in water use, Ψ, and sap flow for affected trees when compared with nonaffected trees. Citrus water use of healthy trees during the 2-year study was 31% and 27% greater than HLB-affected trees for ‘Hamlin’ and ‘Valencia’, respectively. Lower water use of HLB-affected trees resulted in 10% and 15% greater available soil water content than healthy ‘Hamlin’ and ‘Valencia’ trees, respectively. Therefore, reducing the water supply for HLB-affected trees than healthy trees may be a desirable practice that would lead to significant water savings.

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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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Fertilizer material costs, particularly nitrogen (N), have increased substantially over the past 5 years. Increased costs, along with increased awareness of the impact of fertilizer leaching on the environment in humid regions, have increased interest in use of slow-release fertilizer (SRF) or controlled-release fertilizer (CRF) materials. The goals of SRF and CRF use are that no nutrient should be limiting for crop uptake, there should be improved nutrient uptake efficiency, and nutrient-leaching potential should be reduced. These considerations are particularly important for crops grown on sandy soils with relatively low nutrient and water holding capacities. Release rates of biodegradable, or slow-release materials, such urea formaldehyde, isobutylidene diurea, and methylene urea are proportional to soil microbial activity and are therefore soil temperature dependent. These materials are N sources and depend on soil biological activity, thus, soil temperature during specific crop growth phenology must be considered and release may be delayed by soil fumigation. Whereas CRFs depend on diffusion through coatings and not biodegradation, both are soil moisture and temperature dependent. Examples of coated materials are sulfur-coated urea, polymer-coated urea, and polymer/sulfur-coated urea. The advantage of these materials is that leachable fertilizer elements other than N can be incorporated within the coating. However, this comes at an increased cost. The use of any single or combination of these materials depends on time of year, the length of crop cycle and crop nutrient demand patterns, and the use of soil fumigants.

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Citrus (Citrus sp.) root length density (RLD) can help in understanding and predicting nutrient and water uptake dynamics. A study was conducted at two sites in Florida to investigate root and water distribution patterns among different irrigation and fertigation systems. The results over the 2 years showed that RLD was highest in the 0- to 15-cm soil depth and decreased with depth for all treatments at both sites. About 64% to 82% of the fibrous roots (<1 mm diameter) were concentrated in the irrigated zones of drip- and microsprinkler-irrigated trees and 18% to 36% were found in the nonirrigated zones at the Spodosol site (SS). At the Entisol site (ES), the RLD (<0.5 mm diameter) in the 0- to 15-cm depth soil for intensive microsprinkler or drip irrigation was 3- to 4-fold (nonirrigated zone) and 4- to 7-fold (irrigated zone) greater at the 0- to 15-cm soil depth than that for conventional irrigation system. The trees at SS were symptomatic for Huanglongbing (HLB; Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus) in the second year, while those at ES were asymptomatic throughout the study. This might have limited the density and extent of root distribution at SS. The water contents remained either close to or slightly above the field capacity. The results showed higher RLD for intensive irrigation and fertigation practices in irrigated zones compared with conventional grower applications suggesting greater water and nutrient uptake potential for the former.

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Earlier fall planting dates for strawberry (Fragaria ×ananassa) in west-central Florida tend to promote earlier onset of flowering and fruiting. However, warm air temperatures (>28 °C) can result in excessive growth and runner production. Sprinkler irrigation is a common practice to reduce air temperature in the first 10 to15 days after transplanting, requiring large volumes of irrigation water. An alternative to sprinkler irrigation is the application of crop protectants such as kaolin clay after transplanting. The objectives of this study were to determine the optimal planting dates and to assess the most appropriate establishment practices for strawberry bare-root transplants in Florida. Four establishment practices—10 days of sprinkler irrigation (DSI), 10 DSI + kaolin clay, 7 DSI, and 7 DSI + kaolin clay were evaluated for ‘Florida Radiance’ and Sweet Sensation® ‘Florida127’ transplanted in mid September, late September, and early October in consecutive seasons. For ‘Florida127’, September planting dates increased early yield compared with early-October traditional planting dates, with no difference in total yield. Seven DSI followed by the foliar application of kaolin clay at day 8 was also found to increase early yield compared with 10 DSI for strawberry establishment, with annual water savings of 108.7 mm.

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