A UF/IFAS soil microbiologist says cover crops and compost can improve soil health and citrus tree health.

Florida citrus growers have learned that optimal citrus tree health is one way to deal with citrus greening, and that improving soil health is one way to affect tree health. Researchers have found that amending the soil has quite an impact on improving the health of any crop, and citrus trees are no different. However, according to UF/IFAS soil microbiologist Sarah Strauss in a Citrus Industry article, most citrus grove soil in Florida contains only 1 to 2 percent of organic matter. Fortunately, actions like the use of cover crops and composting can help improve soil health and tree health. Read the details below.

Cover Crops and Compost for Citrus Tree Health

Strauss, who works out of the Southwest Florida Research and Education Center, maintained that the benefits of amending the soil in a citrus grove are many, and many are “…tied to the soil microbial activity in the community,” she said. Benefits include:

  • Increasing water-holding capacity
  • nutrient retention
  • nutrient cycling
  • erosion reduction

Strauss shared that cover crops seem to have a greater long-term benefit over compost, though both can be used to add organic materials to soils. In the article, she said that cover crops are “a year-round input into the soil, and that once you plant the seeds, those plants are staying in the soil continuously and providing a lot of benefits that compost may or may not provide without repeated applications.”

Research is ongoing into different cover crops, such as legumes and nonlegumes, according to Strauss. “There’s a huge variety of different types of cover crops that we’re looking at, and that’s an area that we’re still trying to figure out what are the best combinations.”

Griffin Fertilizer is committed to helping both growers and ranchers make sound agronomic and economic decisions in order to maximize the health of their grove and pasture. As a full-service custom dry & liquid fertilizer blender and crop protection product distributor, we will continue our mission to further advance Florida agriculture. For questions or concerns about your farm or pasture, contact us and one of our team will be in touch.