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Citrus soil health an important part of overall tree health

UF/IFAS will host a field day focused on improving citrus soil health, a topic of growing interest to researchers and growers.

With the challenges of citrus greening, there is an increased need for understanding overall tree health including the soil, Dr. Juanita Popenoe, UF/IFAS Extension multi-county agent said.

The field day will take place on November 15 and includes updates on UF/IFAS research and grove tours led by Florida citrus growers.

This unique field day will take place on two Florida groves and will provide a side-by-side comparison of the different ways to improve soil health. J & R Groves utilized cover crops and Ben Krupski added compost. Both growers will share their experiences and results.

“Florida soils, particularly for citrus, have low soil organic matter,” UF/IFAS researcher Dr. Sarah Strauss said. “Growers knows this but building soil organic matter to improve water retention and soil health can be a challenge.”

“One of the traditional ways to improve soil health is by applying compost, but another way is through the use of cover crops,” Strauss said. “This is not a new idea, but it is gaining some increased attention in the citrus industry due to other difficulties in keeping trees healthy.”

Strauss alongside a team of UF/IFAS researchers conducts research to discover how cover crops benefit soil nutrient status, moisture, healthy microbes and overall tree health. The first year of that project is wrapping up now.

“As scientists, we are trying to figure out the effectiveness of different soil improvement options and what changes occur to the soil,” she said. “This research will provide us data on many different aspects of the impacts cover cropping could have to a grower’s system.”

“There are various ways to increase soil health and seeing these different techniques in-person will make the research come to life,” Popenoe said. “This will be a great combination of research and growers working together to educate on soil health.”

“Ed James, owner of J & R Groves and host of the field day, has utilized cover crops at his grove for eight years and has a fantastic example of what this could look like,” Strauss said. “If growers are interested in seeing what cover crops might look like in their grove, this field day is the opportunity to see and learn about some of the options.”

To register for the event, visit eventbrite.com/e/citrus-soil-health-field-day-fertility-cover-crops-compost-tickets-67570271501. Registration includes lunch and sponsorships are also available.

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