Mike Roberts

The Nutrient Application Rates Bill: What You Need to Know

Citrus growers concerned that UF/IFAS’ nutrient recommendation rates pertaining to BMPs (best management practices) may have been based on outdated research will be happy to hear that SB 1000, known as the Nutrient Application Rates bill, was signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis. The changes created by the bill went into effect on July 1. Here’s a brief breakdown of the bill’s changes.

A Call for Change

In mid-2021, citrus growers started to voice their displeasure with what they termed “outdated science” that was behind the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) nutrient recommendation rates pertaining to BMPs. Growers were concerned with warnings that they were out of compliance with BMP guidelines when applying nutrients, such as phosphorus, above IFAS recommendations created in 2008. Those guidelines did not take into account the higher nutrient needs of citrus trees affected by HLB as citrus greening had only just been detected in Florida groves in 2005.

In response to growers’ concerns, Florida Sen. Ben Albritton filed bill SB 1000 in December 2021. Then, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the Nutrient Application Rates bill last month.

Details of The Nutrient Application Rates Bill

Florida Citrus Mutual Executive Vice President/CEO Mathew Joyner maintained that the bill will authorize citrus growers to vary from current BMPs on nutrient applications under the following circumstances:

  • When using site-specific nutrient management; and,
  • When supported by written recommendations from a Certified Crop Adviser who also holds a 4R Nutrient Management Specialty certification. 

The written recommendations need to be documented using production and field data that is retained for review during the best management practices implementation verification process.

The Nutrient Application Rates bill also clarifies that nutrient recommendations are just that — recommendations — and are not meant to be regulatory.

In response to the issues with Citrus BMPs, Joyner maintained the legislation instructs UF/IFAS to analyze the use of site-specific nutrient management for crops other than citrus and develop a research plan and interim recommendations for implementation. Thankfully, UF/IFAS researchers already indicated in mid-2021, in response to grower concerns with BMP recommendations, that they would be issuing new recommendations that better suited an HLB growing environment.