Parsons On Citrus: Keep An Eye On Irrigation

The National Weather Service predicts the drought in the Southeast will continue to persist or intensify this spring. La Niña conditions will continue for the next few months, and rainfall in Florida is predicted to be below normal through next month. While irrigation can be withheld from citrus in the fall and winter, adequate water in the spring is necessary to maintain good yields. With the prediction of a dry spring, growers may need to review their management practices to make sure they are providing sufficient irrigation to their trees and the new developing crop.
Florida’s sandy soils are notorious for holding very little water. Hence, frequent irrigation, particularly in the hotter spring months of April and May, is necessary to maintain the soil near field capacity.

Plugged In

One thing that has made it easier to manage irrigation is improved technology in the area of soil moisture probes. Tensiometers are still a low-cost method to get a snapshot estimate of soil moisture status. But many growers do not take the time to maintain them properly. Newer technology has recently become available that allows growers to follow changes in soil water status over time. Water content at different depths can be monitored, so the grower can see developing trends in changing water content. Sensors also can indicate how deep water has moved in the soil profile.
 
Technology is now available that allows growers to access data on soil moisture via radio and Internet or cell phone. Growers can monitor soil water status in distant fields from their home office or any other location. Knowledge of irrigation status can enhance water utilization and save growers from making unnecessary trips to remote fields.
 
Growers also can set soil water status trigger points to start irrigation. These trigger points can be changed with the season. With less stress in the spring, better fruit set is assured. Greater soil water depletion in the fall and winter can save water and pumping costs while helping to concentrate juice solids.
 
We now have the capability of a fully automated irrigation system, where tree consumptive use determines the frequency and amount of irrigation applied. When the soil dries to a pre-set trigger point, the irrigation will automatically come on. Changes in irrigation frequency are based on tree uptake of water from the soil. Thus, irrigation frequency can automatically adjust to hot, cool, dry, or rainy conditions.

In The Field

We installed an automatic system in a grove of mature Hamlin/Carrizo trees on ridge Candler sand. It was interesting to see when the trees “called” for irrigation (i.e., dried the soil to a pre-set depletion level that triggered an irrigation cycle). Using green microsprinklers (roughly 15 gallons/hour) and half hour irrigation pulses at a 25% moisture depletion level, we found that trees commonly triggered an irrigation pulse two to three times per day in the spring. With this system, trees usually started irrigation pulses around noon, late afternoon, and early evening. When it rained, irrigation was delayed. In the winter when evapotranspiration was lower, trees commonly triggered an irrigation just once a day at 25% depletion. If the depletion level were set at 50% in the winter, irrigation usually occurred every other day. The depletion level trigger point can be adjusted based on grower preference, tree size, and soil type.
 
These automatic systems cannot replace grower judgment, but they can monitor soil water status, reduce over-irrigation and potential nutrient leaching loss, and start irrigation based on plant water use. Besides monitoring water status, most soil water sensors are eligible for cost share reimbursement in the Southwest Florida Water Management District under the Facilitating Agricultural Resource Management Systems program. This program makes it more affordable for growers to use soil water sensors.

Leave a Reply

Featured Stories
Citrus
August 23, 2017
Varroa Mite Researchers Talk High Infestations in Bee Colonies
In 2016, The New York State Beekeeper Tech Team (which is attached to Cornell University’s Dyce Lab Beekeeping Resources) found that Read More
Ed Pines citrus grower
Citrus Achievement Award
August 23, 2017
Citrus Achievement Award Winner Knows How to Block out What’s Bugging Him
Growing citrus indoors can help protect it from the citrus psyllid and the deadly disease it vectors. Read More
Citrus
August 23, 2017
Advice From the FDA on How Growers Can Keep Their Produce Safe
Want tips that will keep your operation on the right side of the FDA when it comes to food safety? American Vegetable Grower® decided the best advice would come directly from the FDA itself.  Read More
More Vegetables
August 23, 2017
20 Pepper Varieties You Need to Know
Leading seed breeders and distributors highlight some of the latest pepper varieties available. Read More
Assorted vegetables
Crop Protection
August 23, 2017
New Biological Fungicide Approved for Fruit and Vegetable Crops
Howler fungicide, developed by AgBiome, receives EPA registration for high-value, specialty crops. Read More
haskap berries
GenNext Growers
August 22, 2017
Top Alternative Crops GenNext Growers Should Consider
Now is a good time for you to think about what new selections might pay off. Read More
Insect Control
August 22, 2017
Stink Bug Threatens High-Dollar Crops in California
While populations are low, it appears invasive pest has recently stumbled upon the state’s peaches and almonds. Read More
Lemon tree in Florida full of fruit
Grapefruit & Specialty
August 22, 2017
More Florida Citrus Producers Pondering the Lemon Pledge
Local farmers are sweet on the prospect of growing the acid fruit. Read More
Berries
August 22, 2017
Columnist Wins Prestigious Plant Breeder Award
John Clark, who writes a column for American Fruit Grower® and Western Fruit Grower® magazines, is honored with National Plant Breeders Association Impact Award. Read More
Apple Grower of the Year
August 22, 2017
U.S. Apple Association Hosts Annual Apple Outlook Conference in Chicago
American Fruit Grower® and Western Fruit Grower® magazine’s 2017 Apple Grower of the Year will be officially presented on Thursday, Aug. 24, during the first day of the conference. Read More
Port Of Miami shipyard
Farm Management
August 21, 2017
NAFTA Renegotiation Long Overdue for Florida Farmers
Specialty crop growers in the Sunshine State seek relief from unfair trade deal. Read More
Alan Jones takes a ride around Jones Potato Farm
Citrus
August 21, 2017
Take Alternative Routes to Find Conventional Farming Solutions [Opinion]
In order to grow, things have to change. Are you ready? Read More
Apples & Pears
August 20, 2017
APHIS Seeks Comments on Risk Removal for Dormant Apple Cuttings
Dormant live cuttings from countries in the European Union must currently go through pest risk assessment. Read More
young Florida citrus grove
Varieties & Rootstocks
August 19, 2017
Pressure Is on to Pick and Plant Citrus Winners
With even more variety selections available, information and communication are keys to success. Read More
honeybees
Citrus
August 19, 2017
More Forage Grants Distributed in Honor of National Honeybee Day
National forage program is scattering seeds from New York to California to celebrate pollinators. Read More
The Latest
Citrus
August 23, 2017
Varroa Mite Researchers Talk High Infest…
In 2016, The New York State Beekeeper Tech Team (which is attached to Cornell University’s Dyce Lab Beekeeping Resources) found that Read More
Citrus Achievement Award
August 23, 2017
Citrus Achievement Award Winner Knows Ho…
Growing citrus indoors can help protect it from the citrus psyllid and the deadly disease it vectors. Read More
Citrus
August 23, 2017
Advice From the FDA on How Growers Can K…
Want tips that will keep your operation on the right side of the FDA when it comes to food safety? American Vegetable Grower® decided the best advice would come directly from the FDA itself.  Read More
More Vegetables
August 23, 2017
20 Pepper Varieties You Need to Know
Leading seed breeders and distributors highlight some of the latest pepper varieties available. Read More
Crop Protection
August 23, 2017
New Biological Fungicide Approved for Fr…
Howler fungicide, developed by AgBiome, receives EPA registration for high-value, specialty crops. Read More
GenNext Growers
August 22, 2017
Top Alternative Crops GenNext Growers Sh…
Now is a good time for you to think about what new selections might pay off. Read More
Insect Control
August 22, 2017
Stink Bug Threatens High-Dollar Crops in…
While populations are low, it appears invasive pest has recently stumbled upon the state’s peaches and almonds. Read More
Grapefruit & Specialty
August 22, 2017
More Florida Citrus Producers Pondering …
Local farmers are sweet on the prospect of growing the acid fruit. Read More
Berries
August 22, 2017
Columnist Wins Prestigious Plant Breeder…
John Clark, who writes a column for American Fruit Grower® and Western Fruit Grower® magazines, is honored with National Plant Breeders Association Impact Award. Read More
Apple Grower of the Year
August 22, 2017
U.S. Apple Association Hosts Annual Appl…
American Fruit Grower® and Western Fruit Grower® magazine’s 2017 Apple Grower of the Year will be officially presented on Thursday, Aug. 24, during the first day of the conference. Read More
Farm Management
August 21, 2017
NAFTA Renegotiation Long Overdue for Flo…
Specialty crop growers in the Sunshine State seek relief from unfair trade deal. Read More
Citrus
August 21, 2017
Take Alternative Routes to Find Conventi…
In order to grow, things have to change. Are you ready? Read More
Apples & Pears
August 20, 2017
APHIS Seeks Comments on Risk Removal for…
Dormant live cuttings from countries in the European Union must currently go through pest risk assessment. Read More
Varieties & Rootstocks
August 19, 2017
Pressure Is on to Pick and Plant Citrus …
With even more variety selections available, information and communication are keys to success. Read More
Citrus
August 19, 2017
More Forage Grants Distributed in Honor …
National forage program is scattering seeds from New York to California to celebrate pollinators. Read More
Citrus
August 18, 2017
Bayer Aims Research Prowess at Defeating…
Company enters collaboration with Citrus Research and Development Foundation to uncover antibacterial and plant defense tools against the disease. Read More
Citrus
August 18, 2017
How Florida Growers are Fine-Tuning Citr…
Some are tweaking nutrition programs to focus on root health along with foliar applications. Read More
Citrus
August 17, 2017
How Wicked Will Winter 2018 Be in the U.…
The 200th edition of the Farmers’ Almanac reveals wide-ranging weather patterns and events that would require everything from shovels to shorts. Read More