The goal of this research was to identify the role essential nutrients play in the physiology of tree crops, and then to apply the nutrient as a foliar fertilizer to stimulate a specific metabolic process at phenological stages when nutrient demand is high. This approach has proven successful. A single winter prebloom foliar application of nitrogen as low-biuret urea [0.16 kg N/tree (0.35 lb N/tree)] to 30-year-old ‘Washington’ navel orange (Citrus sinensis L. Osbeck) trees during flower initiation significantly increased yield and fruit number per tree for each of 3 consecutive years (P ≤ 0.05). The number of commercially valuable large size fruit also increased significantly with yield increases (r² = 0.88).

Sodium tetraborate applied foliarly to ‘Hass’ avocado (Persea americana Mill.) trees at the cauliflower stage of inflorescence development (elongation of inflorescence secondary axes, pollen and ovule development) increased the number of pollen tubes reaching the ovule, ovule viability and cumulative yield (P≤ 0.05). Additional examples are presented.

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Carol J. Lovatt
Professor of plant physiology, Department of Botany and Plant Sciences, University of California