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L.R. Parsons and T.A. Wheaton

Four decades ago, irrigation in much of the southeastern U.S. was considered not sensible economically because of normal rainfall in excess of 1200 mm in some areas. More-recent research has shown that irrigation makes definite economic sense because it can increase production substantially. This is especially true in Florida citrus, where irrigation can increase yield by up to 60%. Drip and microsprinkler irrigation have become popular, and these methods of partial root-zone coverage affect tree water potential and yield. Growing environmental concerns about possible nitrate and pesticide leaching to the groundwater have led to greater emphasis on irrigation management in an area of highly variable rainfall. Rapidly growing population has brought about increased competition for water and greater restrictions on agricultural water use. Reclaimed water, once considered a disposal problem, is now being promoted as a partial solution for periodic water shortages. Discussion will focus on tree response to different irrigation management systems and how agriculture is dealing with greater irrigation restrictions.

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J.M.S. Scholberg, L.R. Parsons and T.A. Wheaton

Improving our understanding of processes that control and limit nitrogen uptake by citrus can provide a scientific basis for enhancing nitrogen fertilizer use efficiency. Nitrogen uptake dynamics of two rootstock seedlings will be compared to those of young budded trees. Three-month old Swingle citrumelo [Citrus paradisi Macf. × Poncirus trifoliata (L.) Raf.] and Volkamer lemon (C. volkameriana Ten. & Pasq.) trees were planted in PVC columns filled with a Candler fine sand. Field experiments were conducted using 4-year-old `Hamlin' orange trees [Citrus sinensis (L.) Osb.] grafted on `Carrizo' [C. sinensis × Poncirus trifoliata (L.) Raf.] or on Swingle citrumelo. Trees were either grown in solution culture using 120-L PVC containers or in 900-L PVC tubs filled with a Candler fine sand. Additional trees were planted in the field during Spring 1998. Two lateral roots per tree were trained to grow in slanted, partly burried, 20-L PVC columns filled with a Candler fine sand. Nitrogen uptake from the soil was determined by comparing the residual N extracted by intensive leaching from planted units with that of non-planted (reference) units. With the application of dilute N solutions (7 mg N/L), plants reduced N concentrations to near-zero N concentrations within days. Applying N at higher concentrations (70 or 210 mg N/L) resulted in higher initial uptake rates, increased residual soil N levels, and reduced nitrogen uptake efficiency. Contributions of passive uptake to total nitrogen uptake ranged from less than 5% at soil solution concentrations around 3 ppm N to 20% to 30% at concentrations of 60 ppm N.

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J.M.S. Scholberg, L.R. Parsons and T.A. Wheaton

The interactive effects of irrigation rate and nitrogen concentration of the irrigation water on the growth of seedlings of two citrus rootstocks were studied. Four-month old seedlings of Swingle citrumelo [Citrus paradisi Macf. × Poncirus trifoliata (L.) Raf.] and Volkamer lemon (C. volkameriana Ten. & Pasq.) were grown for ≈10 months in square citripots filled with a Candler fine sand. Plants were irrigated at 0.5, 0.75 or 1.0 times the evapotranspiration rate. Irrigation was applied using water containing 0, 7, 21, or 63 ppm nitrogen. Plant growth increased with irrigation rate and nitrogen concentration. Evapotranspiration rates, as determined from weight losses of reference plants, increased with nitrogen rate. Overall plant growth and weekly evaporation rates were greater with Volkamer than with Swingle. Leaf senescence of Swingle was more pronounced at low irrigation rates and/or low nitrogen concentrations than it was with Volkamer. Increasing nitrogen concentration of the irrigation water during the winter months reduced leaf senescence of both Swingle and Volkamer seedlings, and also promoted continuous growth in Volkamer. Leaf growth of Swingle ceased during the winter months, regardless of the nitrogen concentration of the irrigation water.

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K.T. Morgan, J.M.S. Scholberg, T.A. Obreza and T.A. Wheaton

Growth and nitrogen (N) accumulation relationships based on tree size, rather than age, may provide more generic information that could be used to improve sweet orange [Citrus sinensis (L.) Osbeck] N management. The objectives of this study were to determine how orange trees accumulate and distribute biomass and N as they grow, investigate yearly biomass and N changes in mature orange trees, determine rootstock effect on biomass and N distribution, and to develop simple mathematical models describing these relationships. Eighteen orange trees with canopy volumes ranging between 2 and 43 m3 were dissected into leaf, twig, branch, and root components, and the dry weight and N concentration of each were measured. The N content of each tree part was calculated, and biomass and N distribution throughout each tree were determined. The total dry biomass of large (mature) trees averaged 94 kg and contained 0.79 kg N. Biomass allocation was 13% in leaves, 7% in twigs, 50% in branches/trunk, and 30% in roots. N allocation was 38% in leaves, 8% in twigs, 27% in branches/trunk, and 27% in roots. For the smallest tree, above-/below-ground distribution ratios for biomass and N were 60/40 and 75/25, respectively. All tree components accumulated biomass and N linearly as tree size increased, with the above-ground portion accumulating biomass about 2.5 times faster than the below-ground portion due mostly to branch growth. The growth models developed are currently being integrated in a decision support system for improving fertilizer use efficiency for orange trees, which will provide growers with a management tool to improve long-term N use efficiency in orange orchards.

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T.A. Wheaton, W.S. Castle, J.D. Whitney and D.P.H. Tucker

`Hamlin' and `Valencia' oranges [Citrus sinensis (L.) Osb.], `Murcott' tangor (C. reticulata Blanco × C. sinensis), and `Redblush' grapefruit (C. paradisi Macf.) on 15 rootstock and own-rooted cuttings were planted at a 1.5 × 3.3-m spacing providing a density of 2020 trees/ha. Growth rate, productivity, and fruit quality varied among the scion and stock combinations. Combinations of moderate vigor and precocious fruiting performed better than very vigorous or dwarfing materials. Several freezes slowed canopy development and delayed production. Most trees had filled their allocated canopy space 7 years after planting. At that age, the orange trees yielded 23 to 75 t·ha-1. Scion and stock combinations with desirable vigor and fruiting characteristics were satisfactory in this high-density planting. However, there appears to be little advantage of high tree density under Florida conditions, and moderate densities of fewer than 1000 trees/ha may be preferable.

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T.A. Wheaton, J.D. Whitney, W.S. Castle, R.P. Muraro, H.W. Browning and D.P.H. Tucker

A factorial experiment begun in 1980 included `Hamlin' and `Valencia' sweet-orange scions [Citrus sinensis (L.) Osb.], and Milam lemon (C. jambhiri Lush) and Rusk citrange [C. sinensis × Poncirus trifoliata (L.) Raf.] rootstocks, tree topping heights of 3.7 and 5.5 m, between-row spacings of 4.5 and 6.0 m, and in-row spacings of 2.5 and 4.5 m. The spacing combinations provided tree densities of 370, 494, 667, and 889 trees ha. Yield increased with increasing tree density during the early years of production. For tree ages 9 to 13 years, however, there was no consistent relationship between yield and tree density. Rusk citrange, a rootstock of moderate vigor, produced smaller trees and better yield, fruit quality, and economic returns than Milam lemon, a vigorous rootstock. After filling their allocated space, yield and fruit quality of trees on Milam rootstock declined with increasing tree density at the lower topping height. Cumulative economic returns at year 13 were not related to tree density.