Growing Citrus in the Dooryard

Today I would like briefly discuss irrigation, pest, disease, and disorders of citrus.

Irrigation:

Florida’s average annual rainfall of 50 -62 inches exceeds the 42 - 48 inches per year required for an acre of mature citrus trees. However, our seasonal rains (primarily from June to September), combined with the low water-holding characteristics of Florida’s sandy citrus soils, makes irrigation necessary.

For young trees the goal of irrigation twice per week for short durations from March through June is to maintain optimum moisture in the upper soil layer where most of the roots are. Maintain the above soil moisture levels until fruit is greater than 1 - inch in diameter. Proper irrigation during this period also affects tree size, fruit yield, size and color - as well as juice content and quality.

Insects, mites, and diseases:

Insects, mites, and disease are common problems to Florida homeowner with a dooryard planting of citrus. More harm than good comes from an attempt to control these pest with pesticides. To be successful, the right material should be applied at the right time using the right amount in the right manner. If any of these conditions cannot be met, it is usually better not to spray at all.

Citrus rust mites, have an annulate, wedge-shaped body, lemon-yellow in color and about 1/200 inch in length. They have 2 pairs of legs and piercing - sucking mouthparts. They can just barely be seen with the naked eye and can be seen better with a 10 power magnifying glass. The life cycle of the citrus rust mite is completed within 5-7 days during the summer. The mite has 2 immature stages that are similar to the adult in appearance. Although present throughout the year, in Florida the citrus rust mite is most prevalent during the summer months.

Citrus red mites (purple mites), are only about 1/50 inch long. They are bright red to dark purple in color and infest leaves, fruit and new growth. Injury results from feeding and appears as a scratching or etching of fruit and the upper surface of leaves. In periods of prolonged dry weather, they can cause a collapse of leaf cells and even leaf drop.

Citrus red mites are more numerous from May through July, but can be the most damaging in the fall and winter months during periods of low rain fall or inadequate irrigation.

Next I will discuss insects, diseases and believe it or not there are some beneficial organisms that I will tell you about. The Master Gardener’s invite you to attend our Annual Spring Seminar, February 27,2004. We will cover such topics as Honey bees, Irrigation, The garden of the future Earth boxes, and much more. We will begin with registration and refreshments at 8:30 AM.