The Fertilizer Research and Education Program has just published its 2020 proceedings. FREP was established in 1990 through legislative action to provide funding for research and education regarding the agronomically safe and environmentally sound use of fertilizer in California. The program is part of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), Division of Inspection Services, within the Feed, Fertilizer, and Livestock Drugs Regulatory Services branch. At the website you can review the fertilizer guidelines for many of the crops grown in California.
INTERACTIVE IRRIGATION MANAGEMENT TO REDUCE THE LEACHING OF NITROGEN
The program purpose is to reduce the amount of nitrogen leached from farms with the goal of enhancing surface and groundwater quality
Participants will be selected based on:
• potential for nitrogen leaching and proximity to nitrogen-impaired waterbody
• potential for water-use and fertilizer use reductions
Participants will receive:
• a free NIM station, irrigation and nutrient data reports, and access to real-time soil moisture data
• free access to irrigation and nutrient management technical assistance and recommendations
Free Zoom Workshops – just click the link to participate on the date and time indicated!
Hear details from Jodi Switzer - Farm Bureau VC, Ben Waddell - Fruit Growers Lab, Israel Camacho - AGQ Labs, Eryn Wingate - Tri-Tech Ag, and Jamie Whiteford - VCRCD
Monday October 19, 12:00 - 1:00 pm. To attend this remote workshop click HERE
Thursday October 22, 9:00 - 10:00 am. To attend this remote workshop click HERE
Friday October 23, 12:00 - 1:00 pm. To attend this remote workshop click HERE
Friday October 23, 1:00 - 2:00 pm. To attend this remote workshop click HERE
Foliar fertilizer application is sometimes promoted as an effective means of supplying nutrients to avocado. On the market are various products being promoted as foliar nutrients for avocado, some proponents even suggest that their products do away with the need for soil applied nutrients. The nature of the avocado leaf severely limits its capacity to absorb foliar sprays.
The structure of plant leaves has evolved primarily to capture sunlight and exchange gases, roots have evolved to absorb nutrients and water and anchor the plant. Any absorption of nutrients by leaves is therefore likely to be more fortuitous than by design. In some crops passive nutrient absorption by leaves is occasionally sufficient to supplement the supply of nutrients taken up by the roots. Most often this involves trace elements, which as their name suggests are required in very small amounts (eg. copper and zinc). However if non-mobile elements or elements with limited mobility in the plant (eg. calcium, phosphorus, zinc, boron and iron) are absorbed when foliar sprayed they are not likely to make it down to the roots where they are also needed. Most nutrients will move freely in the water stream but the movement of many is restricted in the phloem, hence leaf applications don't meet the requirements of deficient trees. Occasionally major elements (such as nitrogen and potassium) are applied to make up for a temporary shortfall or provide a boost at a critical time. Citrus is an example of a crop where some benefits from foliar applied nutrients have been reported.
The ability of the leaf to absorb nutrients from its surface must depend to some degree on the permeability of its epidermis (outer layer) and the presence and density of stomates (pores for the exchange of gases). Scanning Electron Microscope studies of mature leaves and floral structures in avocado show the presence of a waxy layer on both the upper and lower surfaces of mature avocado leaves (Whiley et al, 1988). On the upper surface the wax appears as a continuous layer and there are no stomates. On the lower surface the wax layer is globular and stomates are present. Blanke and Lovatt (1993) describe the avocado leaf as having a dense outer wax cover in the form of rodlets on young leaves and dendritic (branching) crystals on old leaves including the guard cells (guard cells surround stomates). The flower petals and sepals in avocado have stomates on their lower surfaces and no wax layers on either surface, which might explain why floral sprays of boron might work.
Blanke, M.M. and Lovatt, C.J. 1993. Anatomy and transpiration of the avocado inflorescence. Annals of Botany, 71 (6): 543-547.
Whiley, A.W., Chapman, K.R. and Saranah, J.B. 1988. Water loss by floral structures of avocado (Persea americana cv. Fuerte) during flowering. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research, 39 (3): 457-467.
The avocado leaf, water beading up on the waxy cuticle.
An avocado leaf with its cuticle (white, paperlike surface) being exposed by underlying leaf fungi.
Critical Leaf Nutrient Thresholds to Diagnose Deficiencies in HLB Trees
By Arnold Schumann, Laura Waldo, Tripti Vashisth, Alan Wright and Kelly Morgan
Huanglongbing (HLB) disease severely impacts the nutrient status of citrus trees, particularly by stunting the feeder roots and causing measurable deficiencies of nutrients in the roots and canopies. Visible symptoms of nutrient deficiencies on citrus foliage are characteristic but not diagnostic of HLB disease.
Recent HLB research efforts have focused on manipulating nutrient deficiencies with fertilizer applications to mitigate HLB symptoms and help keep affected trees alive and productive. Efficient diagnosis of nutrient imbalances in HLB-affected trees (both deficiencies and excesses) is necessary to make fertilizer remedies cost-effective and productive. Published thresholds defining deficient, low, optimal, high and excess ranges of nutrient concentrations in citrus leaves were derived long before HLB spread in Florida. Therefore, we conducted a series of survey studies to verify and improve those existing thresholds in HLB-endemic Florida citrus groves.
Traditionally, nutrient thresholds were obtained empirically from long-term replicated fertilization trials conducted decades ago, most notably where “missing nutrient” experiments would, over many years, cause those nutrients to become deficient in trees not receiving certain fertilizers. By comparing treatment plots to fully fertilized control plots, the fruit yield reduction and other symptoms caused by the nutrient deficiency could be quantified.
Critical threshold concentrations (CTCs) derived for each nutrient from those studies were then published and used as thresholds to diagnose leaf tissue samples collected from commercial groves. In the current study, we used a sample survey method and the Diagnosis and Recommendation Integrated System (DRIS) instead of “missing nutrient” experiments in order to save considerable time.
Leaf tissue samples were collected quarterly from 2016 to 2018 in three citrus-growing regions of Florida (11 locations from the Central Ridge, five from the east coast Indian River and six from the southwest Flatwoods). Soil samples were collected annually, and tree canopy measurements, leaf size, starch content, quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) assay and other measurements were conducted periodically for the same sites. In this article, we will focus only on the leaf tissue nutrients of sweet orange trees and assume that most of the sampled trees were HLB-positive, based on the qPCR analyses.
In an April 2009 Citrus Industry article, DRIS was introduced as a promising method for interpreting nutrient levels in plant tissues. See “Potential use of DRIS for leaf nutrient diagnosis in Florida citrus” (www.crec.ifas.ufl.edu/extension/trade_journals/trade_journals2009.shtml).
The DRIS method produces an index for each plant nutrient calculated from a series of leaf concentration ratios of that nutrient with all other measured nutrients, relative to a set of nutrient norms (standards) that were previously calculated from a high-yielding grove. We obtained the DRIS norms from leaf samples collected in the summer of 2003, from a 22-year-old block of Hamlin orange trees on Cleopatra mandarin rootstock near Fort Meade, Florida, spaced 20 by 25 feet and with an average fruit yield over four years of 770 boxes per acre. The leaf sampling for DRIS norm development coincided with a peak yield of 970 boxes per acre in the 2003–04 season, prior to Hurricane Charlie and the appearance of HLB in Florida.
The application of DRIS to diagnose nutrient deficiencies in leaf tissue from HLB-affected trees is best done in conjunction with the CTCs. The CTCs are the thresholds for each nutrient that determine whether a given tree or grove would be responsive to fertilizer supplying that nutrient. Traditionally the CTCs occupy a spot on the plant response curve for each nutrient concentration of about 90 percent maximum yield or growth.
When multiple deficiencies occur, as is often the case with HLB-affected trees, the DRIS indices provide information about the relative severity and ranking of the deficiencies, which the CTCs do not accomplish. Dealing with multiple nutrient deficiencies efficiently is important because of the biological stoichiometry that determines the ideal proportions of nutrients in a plant, just as, for example, a water molecule consists of exactly two atoms of hydrogen and one of oxygen.
Liebig's law of the minimum applied to plant growth, and often visualized as a leaking barrel, (Figure 1) demonstrates that it is the most limiting nutrient that limits growth and yield, regardless of the amounts or types of other nutrients available. Another analogy is that a gasoline engine will not run faster if only the gasoline flow is increased without proportionately increasing the air (oxygen) supply, such as if the choke control is active. The engine may flood and stall if too much gasoline is supplied without increasing the most limiting ingredient for combustion at that time (oxygen).
For example, consider the results in Table 1 of leaf tissue analysis from an HLB-affected tree.
DRIS indices have a theoretical optimum at zero, with more negative values indicating possible nutrient deficiency, and increasing positive values indicating possible nutrient excess. In the Table 1 example, Mg<Mn
Figure 1. Scatter plot of leaf manganese Diagnosis and Recommendation Integrated System (DRIS) indices versus manganese concentrations in HLB-affected citrus. The breakpoint between red and green regression lines indicates the location of the critical threshold concentration (CTC = 22.1 mg/kg).
To examine the validity of currently available CTCs for nutrient diagnosis in HLB-endemic Florida citrus, we used scatter diagrams of the DRIS indices for each nutrient plotted against the nutrient concentrations. This technique has been used before in other crops to determine CTCs from nutrient survey data, including loblolly pine, cotton and signalgrass. Figure 2 shows that the scatter plot for manganese in our survey of HLB-affected groves follows two data trends of different slopes, with the breakpoint indicating the CTC for that nutrient on the x-axis. We used segmented linear regression to determine the correct breakpoint.
The process was repeated for each nutrient in order to determine the preliminary CTCs listed in Table 2. The optimal nutrient ranges in Table 2 were estimated from the intercept of the regression line with zero on the y-axis (DRIS). By comparing our new CTCs with published CTCs, it appears that deficiency diagnoses for copper, boron, potassium, manganese and zinc could be underestimated by currently available CTCs when used for HLB-affected trees.
The optimal nutrient concentrations calculated from this study are mostly in agreement with ranges previously published by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS), except that boron and potassium optimal levels were estimated slightly higher in the survey than those previously published. These results are preliminary, and in this study, CTCs could only be calculated for those nutrients where deficiencies occurred in the survey data. We plan to augment this survey with more leaf nutrition data to better define and expand CTC estimates to be used for diagnosing HLB-affected citrus for all nutrients.
Please contact us if you have leaf nutrient data from your groves that you are willing to share in this study, or if you would like to use the DRIS program which will be published online to a UF/IFAS web page.
In this article we provided updates on research efforts to improve the nutrition of HLB-affected Florida citrus by revising the diagnostic CTC of nutrients in leaf tissue. We also revisited the DRIS method for improving diagnosis of multiple nutrient deficiencies that are common in HLB-affected groves, including potassium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, iron, boron and copper. Additional leaf nutrient data will be obtained for an expanded survey, to be analyzed and corroborated with results of recently completed micronutrient fertilization experiments.
Acknowledgements: We thank the grower cooperators who offered their groves for our nutrient surveys, including Gapway Groves, Ben Hill Griffin Groves, OrangeCo, Brent Shirard, Michael Monroe and English Brothers. We are grateful to the Citrus Research and Development Foundation for financial support of this project.
Arnold Schumann (email@example.com) and Laura Waldo are soil scientists, and Tripti Vashisth is a horticulturist, all at the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred. Alan Wright is a soil scientist at the UF/IFAS Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce. Kelly Morgan is a soil scientist and center director at the UF/IFAS Southwest Florida Research and Education Center in Immokalee.
Table 1. Leaf tissue analysis of HLB-affected orange trees
Figure 1. Manganese concentration of leaf tissue
Table 2. Critical nutrient concentration thresholds
This is an intriguing article that popped up about how to improve blueberry production in alkaline soils. High pH soils are a major issues for many of our tree crops along the coast. pH is what controls the availability of most plant nutrients and what bacteria and fungi grow in the soil, creating the biosphere. So can growing a grass cover crop in our orchards improve lemon and avocado production?
A lawn is better than fertilizer growing healthy blueberries
Intercropping with grasses is an effective and sustainable alternative to chemical treatments for maximizing blueberry yield and antioxidant content in limey soils.
Blueberries are prone to iron deficiency - and correcting it increases their health-enhancing antioxidant content, researchers have discovered.
Published in Frontiers in Plant Science, their study shows that growing grasses alongside blueberry plants corrects signs of iron deficiency, with associated improvements in berry quantity and quality. The effects are comparable to those seen following standard chemical treatment - providing a simpler, safer, cheaper and more sustainable strategy for blueberry farming on sub-optimal soils.
What do superfruits eat?
All soils are rich in iron, but nearly all of it is insoluble.
"Most plants get enough iron by secreting chemicals that make it more soluble," explains senior study author Dr José Covarrubias, Assistant Professor of Agriculture Sciences at the University of Chile. "These iron 'chelators' can be released directly from the roots, or from microbes that grow among them, and allow the iron to be absorbed."
"Blueberries, however, lack these adaptations because they evolved in uncommonly wet, acid conditions which dissolve the iron for them."
As a result, most of the world's relatively dry or alkaline ('limey') cropland is unsuitable for optimal blueberry growth.
"Iron is essential for the formation and function of plant molecules like chlorophyll that allow them to use energy," Covarrubias continues. "That's why iron deficiency shows up as yellowing leaves - and drastically reduces plant growth and yield.
"And in blueberries, iron-dependent enzymes also produce the 'superfruit' antioxidants responsible for their celebrated blue skin and health-enhancing effects."
Strong blueberries must pump iron - but at what cost?
There are two approaches to correcting iron deficiency in blueberries: acidify the soil, or add synthetic iron chelators. Each has its drawbacks, says Covarrubias.
"The commonest industrial approach is soil acidification using sulfur, which is gradually converted by soil bacteria into sulfuric acid. The effects are slow and difficult to adjust - and in waterlogged soils, hydrogen sulfide might accumulate and inhibit root growth.
"Acids can also be added directly via irrigation systems for more rapid acidification - but these are hazardous to farmers, kill beneficial soil microbes, and generate carbon dioxide emissions.
"A commoner strategy among growers is application of iron bound to synthetic chelators - often sold as 'ericaceous fertilizer' - but these are very expensive and leach potentially toxic chemicals into the water table."
A cheaper, safer alternative is needed for efficient large-scale blueberry production. Thankfully, one already exists.
"Grasses - which are well-adapted to poor soils - can provide a sustainable, natural source of iron chelators via their roots when grown alongside fruiting plants. Intercropping with grass species has been shown to improve plant growth and fruit yield in olives, grapes, citrus varieties - and most recently, in blueberries."
A grassroots approach to sustainable blueberry farming
Now, Covarrubias and colleagues have brought intercropping a step closer to the mainstream of blueberry cultivation.
For the first time, they measured the effects of different methods of iron chelation on antioxidant content and other fruit qualities in blueberries.
"In an orchard of 'Emerald' blueberry bushes cultivated in alkaline (pH 8) soil, we compared the effects of five different iron chelation treatments: a 'gold-standard' synthetic iron chelator (Fe-EDDHA), intercropping with grass (common meadow grass or red fescue), cow's blood (Fe-heme), or no treatment (control)."
"We found the association with grasses increased not only the total weight and number of blueberries per plant, but also the concentration of anthocyanins and other antioxidant compounds in their skins, compared to control. The effect sizes were comparable with the proven synthetic chelator Fe-EDDHA, whereas applications of Fe-heme from cow's blood - a fertilizer commonly used in home gardens - had no significant effect."
The beneficial effects paralleled improvement in the plants' iron status (leaf color), which was also comparable between the grass-associated and the Fe-EDDHA-treated plants. None of the treatments had a significant effect on average berry weight
Turf is ready to roll out for healthier blueberries
A potential limitation of intercropping observed in the study was a decrease in berry firmness, since firmer berries are favored by consumers.
"The association with grasses decreased berry firmness compared with control plants, whereas the berries collected from plants treated with Fe-EDDHA reached intermediate values.
"However chemical analysis showed a non-significant trend towards increased ripeness in the berries collected from the intercropped plants, which could account for this small difference."
Intercropped plants also required an additional water supply to maintain a similar soil moisture to other treatments, but plant management was otherwise straightforward and the same across groups. The grasses were kept cropped between 5 and 15cm - a typical range for an attractive mown lawn.
"Our findings validate intercropping with grasses as a simple, effective, sustainable alternative to standard iron correction strategies in blueberries," concludes Covarrubias. "Both commercial and private growers can put this strategy to use right away to boost their blueberry crop and antioxidant content."
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