|Wednesday What's New: Wastewater and Florida Citrus Groves|
|Written by Heleigh Bostwick Wednesday, 21 March 2012|
Florida is a major agricultural state with seasonal rainfall, typically between the months of June and September. Most crops are grown year round and need a steady water supply. Thatís where reclaimed wastewater comes into play. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection states that as of 2005, there were 440 "reclaimed water reuse systems" where wastewater is used to irrigate public parks, gold courses, and residential landscapes. Thanks to a study conducted by Dr. Kelly T. Morgan, a scientist at the University of Florida's, Southwest Florida Research and Education Center, citrus groves can now be added to the list.
Burgeoning populations and droughts are straining water resources, so reclaiming wastewater for irrigation makes sense. Not only would it allow less water to be drawn from aquifers, it could also reduce the amount of wastewater flowing into watercourses; however, there have been concerns about its use in agriculture, particularly whether it would increase soil contaminants or have detrimental effects on plant growth. At least in the case of Floridaís citrus groves, there seems to be minimal impact.
The long-term study began in the 1990s and ended in 2004 and was published in April 2008 issue of HortScience. Researchers found that the increased water supply contributed to more weed growth, but Morgan stated that the general appearance of trees irrigated with reclaimed water was usually better, with higher canopy, leaf color, and fruit crop ratings than orchards irrigated with groundwater.