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W.G. Harris, M. Chrysostome, T.A. Obreza and V.D. Nair

Horticulture is an important industry in Florida despite formidable soil limitations. Favorable climate often makes the expense of overcoming these limitations economically feasible. Challenges arise from high water tables and/or sandy textures, both of which limit plant-available water and nutrient retention. High water tables of flatwoods (Spodosols) and marshes (Everglades Histosols) restrict root proliferation and commonly require artificial drainage. Upper zones of these soils are dominated by uncoated sand (Spodosols) or organic matter (Histosols) that has minimal sorption capacity for phosphorus (P) such that its transport poses an environmental risk without careful management. Nitrogen can be lost via denitrification under prolonged near-surface water saturation. At the other extreme but also prevalent in Florida are excessively well-drained sandy “sandhills” soils with limited water and nutrient retention. Nitrogen leaching from the latter soils can result in nitrate contamination in groundwater. Soil morphology is an important consideration in gauging nutrient and moisture retention. For example, each is enhanced by the presence of sand-grain coatings. Some amendments show promise in reducing P and moisture loss from sandy soils. Precarious balance between horticultural production and environmental risks for Florida soils has spurred development of approaches providing for a more accurate determination of the safe soil P storage capacity. Testing and refinement of these approaches are needed.