Estimating Relative Nutrient Uptake by Mature Citrus Trees in Field Conditions

Kirandeep K. Mann, Laura J. Waldo, Kevin Hostler, Rajinder S. Mann, Arnold W. Schumann


Knowledge of nutrient uptake rates by tree roots is of fundamental importance to develop a citrus fertilization program. However, measuring the nutrient uptake by mature trees in field conditions is difficult. Nutrient uptake by intact roots of mature citrus trees was estimated using the nutrient depletion method, wherein intact roots were separated from the soil and placed in a nutrient solution of known composition. Thereafter, the nutrient concentrations of the solution were measured at a series of time intervals (0, 4, 8, 12, 24, 48, 72, 96, 120, and 144 h) to determine the nutrient depletion curve. The solution volume was maintained with deionized water using constant head Mariotte tubes. Our results showed that the diurnal and seasonal changes in soil temperature and evapotranspiration were responsible for the corresponding variations in nutrient uptake. The time periods, determined by inflection points, beyond which further nutrient uptake was negligible were very low (12–51 h) for different months, revealing that the nutrient uptake by roots is very fast for the first few hours and is negligible after a certain level of depletion is reached. These results suggested the need of frequent small fertigations to supply the tree roots with a continuous source of nutrients to sustain high uptake rates, to prevent nutrient losses to the environment, and to increase nutrient use efficiency. Relative uptake of different nutrient ions also varied across different months. Collectively, our results provide a basis for the development of guidelines for fertigation in an Advanced Citrus Production System and fertilizer formulations to meet the plant’s requirements.


Advanced Citrus Production System (ACPS), Open Hydroponics System (OHS), frequent fertigation, nutrient depletion method

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