Although citrus (Citrus spp.) is sensitive to salinity, acceptable production can be achieved with moderate salinity levels, depending on the climate, scion cultivar, rootstock, and irrigation-fertilizer management. Irrigation scheduling is a key factor in managing salinity in areas with salinity problems. Increasing irrigation frequency and applying water in excess of the crop water requirement are recommended to leach the salts and minimize the salt concentration in the root zone. Overhead sprinkler irrigation should be avoided when using water containing high levels of salts because salt residues can accumulate on the foliage and cause serious injury. Much of the leaf and trunk damage associated with direct foliar uptake of salts can be reduced by using microirrigation systems.
Frequent fertilization using low rates is recommended through fertigation or broadcast application of dry fertilizers. Nutrient sources should have a relatively low salt index and not contain chloride (Cl) or sodium (Na). In areas where Na accumulates in soils, application of calcium (Ca) sources (e.g., gypsum) has been found to reduce the deleterious effect of Na and improve plant growth under saline conditions. Adapting plants to saline environments and increasing salt tolerance through breeding and genetic manipulation is another important method for managing salinity.
Brian Boman, Mongi Zekri
University of Florida
United States Department of Agriculture