A UF/IFAS study that spanned three years showed that black fabric mulch groundcovers offer many benefits for citrus.

Black fabric mulch groundcovers are traditionally used in Florida citrus to combat root weevils as the groundcovers disrupt the insect’s life cycle. However, a UF/IFAS Tip of the Week shared details of a three-year study that showed the groundcovers offer additional benefits as well, to the point that the use of groundcovers can serve as a best management practice (BMP). See the details below.

Benefits of Black Fabric Mulch Groundcovers

According to the Tip of the Week, the groundcovers “can also serve as a best management practice (BMP) to optimize tree water uptake and maintain nutrients around the root system,” in addition to being used as a control method for root weevils. The study, held from 2019 to 2021, assessed how black fabric mulch groundcovers affected soil moisture, plant root growth, and yield in citrus.

When comparing lemon trees with the groundcovers versus lemon trees without, the results showed the groundcovers increased overall fruit weight by 30 percent, increased canopy growth and trunk diameter, and increased soil moisture; according to the Tip of the Week article, water savings from using both soil moisture sensor-based irrigation and groundcovers could be up to 20 percent.

Other take-aways from the study include that soil type may be an influencing factor, and that “frequency and timing of an irrigation event” would affect how beneficial groundcovers were for water savings as “More frequent irrigation, but with less time and early in the morning (before 8:00 a.m.), could provide the biggest benefits.”

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