Growing Oranges - Knowledgebase Question

Indio, CA
Question by cvkidkare
December 31, 1998
We have two navel orange trees. The first year we planted them (about 5 years ago), we had 1 sweet orange, ever since we have very sour oranges. They rotate a heavy crop each year, one will be heavy & one will be light, the next year the tree with all the fruit, will have light fruit, and the one which produced the least amount the previous year will be heavy this year. What can we add to the soil to create sweet oranges?

Answer from NGA
December 31, 1998


If your citrus trees are not behaving as expected, it may be that they're the wrong cultivars for your regon, or some environmental factor is affecting performance. This is especially true if the very first fruit was sweet and none of the subsequent fruit has been sweet. (There's a strong indication that the trees were given proper conditions at the nursery, prior to sale to you.) Let's consider some of the other things that might affect the production of sweeter fruit: Citrus trees need full sunshine, ample water, occasional feeding, and warm winter temperatures. If your soil is deficient in boron, or if boron is unavailable to the trees for some reason, this could prevent the correct balance of sugars and acids within the fruit, resulting in a tart flavor. If the fruit is immature, or even overmature when harvested, the balance of sugars and acids can also be out of whack. Bottom line: having your soil tested would give you some concrete answers about the availability of micronutrients. Harvesting only fully mature fruit will tip the scales in your favor as far as quality and flavor are concerned. Fruit trees can sometimes get into the habit of alternate year bearing because of some environmental stress. Both leaf and fruit buds can develop at the same time. If winter temperatures are cold enough to damage some, but not all of the buds, you'll end up with more fruit than leaves (trees need leaves to manufacture sugars for growth and fruit development), or you'll end up with too many leaves and very few fruit. Either scenario is unhealthy for your tree. You can help overcome this habit by pruning back hard to encourage new wood that should proudce the right combination of leaves and fruit. You'll lose production for a year, but once your tree gets into the correct cycle, the fruit it bears should be of a better quality.

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