Tree Defender Reduces Water Use, Nutrient Runoff

Many Florida citrus growers face a balancing act of maximizing the growth of their crop while minimizing water consumption and reducing excessive nutrient/fertilizer runoff into the state’s waterways. This balancing act is made more challenging by the state’s Best Management Practices (BMP) Program, through which growers voluntarily abide by state-set guidelines for nutrient management in various crops.

The growers may find some respite by the passage of Florida Senate Bill 1000: Nutrient Application Rates. This bill, sponsored by Sen. Ben Albritton (R – Wauchula), tweaks the current BMP Program, moving away from a one-size-fits-all approach by providing customized fertilizer rates for specific groves. The new fertilizer rates will be based on updated research from UF/IFAS, which the bill also funds. This bill should help BMP participants stay in compliance with the program.

In response to the passage of SB 1000, we at Tree Defender are working in collaboration with university researchers to validate the full potential impact that our new innovative and patented IPC design can have. Our most recent Individual Protective Covering was developed to have a positive impact on both irrigation water consumption and nutrient/fertilizer runoff.

Our in-house research team has shown that our technology has the potential to reduce irrigation and liquid fertilizer usage by approximately 80 percent in young citrus plantings as well as any other tree crops utilizing micro-sprinkler irrigation. The Tree Defender could also be effective in containing and preventing excessive runoff of the slow-release granular fertilizers that are commonly used today. 

These two possible reductions could not only help blunt the impact of rising fertilizer costs by reducing grower inputs but also allow growers to tap into more cost-share dollars that are available for water-saving and nutrient-reduction practices. These sustainable practices can be a win/win for everyone as long as they are economically viable and, most importantly, paired with common sense.

By demonstrating a significant reduction of wasted fertilizer in the young plantings that use The Tree Defender, reasonable and adequate application rates will be allowed for the mature tree blocks, where it is needed most.

We are hopeful Tree Defender will prove to be a valuable improvement to current BMPs and support new initiatives such as SB 1000.

This column is sponsored by Tree Defender, and the opinions expressed herein may not reflect those of CFAN or of its advertisers.

Scott Thompson is co-founder of Tree Defender, Radical Ag-Tech, and Care Planet Technologies. He is a Central Florida native with a background in agribusiness, food manufacturing, and bioscience.

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