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  • Author or Editor: David E. Crowley x
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Methods for Zn fertilization of `Hass' avocado (Persea americana Mill.) trees were evaluated in a 2-year field experiment on a commercial orchard located on a calcareous soil (pH 7.8) in Ventura County, Calif. The fertilization methods included soil- or irrigation-applied ZnSO4; irrigation-applied Zn chelate (Zn-EDTA); trunk injection of Zn(NO3)2, and foliar applications of ZnSO4, ZnO, or Zn metalosate. Other experiments evaluated the influence of various surfactants on the Zn contents of leaves treated with foliar-applied materials and on the retention and translocation of radiolabeled 65ZnSO4 and 65Zn metalosate after application to the leaf surface. In the field experiment, tree responses to fertilization with soil-applied materials were affected significantly by their initial status, such that only trees having <50 μg·g–1 had significant increases in foliar Zn contents after fertilization. Among the three soil and irrigation treatments, ZnSO4 applied at 3.2 kg ZnSO4 per tree either as a quarterly irrigation or annually as a soil application was the most effective and increased leaf tissue Zn concentrations to 75 and 90 μg·g–1, respectively. Foliar-applied ZnSO4, ZnO, and Zn metalosate with Zn at 5.4, 0.8, and 0.9 g·liter–1, respectively, also resulted in increased leaf Zn concentrations. However, experiments with 65Zn applied to leaves of greenhouse seedlings showed that <1% of Zn applied as ZnSO4 or Zn metalosate was actually taken up by the leaf tissue and that there was little translocation of Zn into leaf parenchyma tissue adjacent to the application spots or into the leaves above or below the treated leaves. Given these problems with foliar Zn, fertilization using soil- or irrigation-applied ZnSO4 may provide the most reliable method for correction of Zn deficiency in avocado on calcareous soils.

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Optimizing ‘Hass’ avocado (Persea americana Mill.) tree nutrient status is essential for maximizing productivity. Leaf nutrient analysis is used to guide avocado fertilization to maintain tree nutrition. The goal of this research was to identify a ‘Hass’ avocado tissue with nutrient concentrations predictive of yields greater than 40 kg of fruit per tree. This threshold was specified to assist the California avocado industry to increase yields to ≈11,200 kg·ha−1. Nutrient concentrations of cauliflower stage inflorescences (CSI) collected in March proved better predictors of yield than inflorescences collected at full bloom (FBI) in April, fruit pedicels (FP) collected at five different stages of avocado tree phenology from the end of fruit set in June through April the following spring when mature fruit enter a second period of exponential growth, or 6-month-old spring flush leaves (LF) from nonbearing vegetative shoots collected in September (California avocado industry standard). For CSI tissue, concentrations of seven nutrients, nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), magnesium (Mg), sulfur (S), zinc (Zn), and copper (Cu) were predictive of trees producing greater than 40 kg of fruit annually. Conditional quantile sampling and frequency analysis were used to identify optimum nutrient concentration ranges (ONCR) for each nutrient. Optimum ratios between nutrient concentrations and yields greater than 40 kg per tree were also derived. The high nutrient concentrations characterizing CSI tissue suggest current fertilization practices (timing or amounts) might be causing nutrient imbalances at this stage of avocado tree phenology that are limiting productivity, a possibility that warrants further investigation. Because CSI samples can be collected 4–6 weeks before full bloom, nutritional problems can be addressed before they affect flower retention and fruit set to increase current crop yield, fruit size, and quality. Thus, CSI nutrient analysis warrants further research as a potential supplemental or alternative tool for diagnosing ‘Hass’ avocado tree nutrient status and increasing yield.

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