Finally, with regard to spacing, growers also need to keep in mind the possibility of mechanical harvesting when designing their grove. Rouse says he thinks every grower should request and buy high-headed trees from the nursery. High-headed trees are grown higher than normal before they are allowed to start branching. This allows space to use mechanical harvesting equipment.
"It is much easier to plant a tree designed for that than to take a tree that is already planted, prune it and make it possible for mechanical harvesting," Rouse says. "It doesn't cost anymore and it gives you an option you may want to exercise in the future."
Analyze soil type, make water management plans
Soil and topography, also known as site selection, is a topic that has much information and data available to the grower. Articles on the UF/IFAS EDIS Web site detail the various types of soil conducive to citrus groves and how to prepare the land. This also effects your planned water management.
According to "Water and Environmental Considerations for the Design and Development of Citrus Groves in Florida," an article by Brian Boman, Nigel Morris and Mark Wade, "the rolling sand hills in Central Florida (the Ridge) are largely well drained. These light sandy soils are usually underlain by a sandy clay layer. Clay or organic matter in the soil helps to retain moisture and nutrients for use by the trees."
The Indian River and Southwest Florida are noted as poorly drained flatwoods soils, according to the article, which will need a different type of preparation before planting. "If you are in a very wet area called the Flatwoods in south Florida or on the east coast where the water is much closer to the surface, then you will need more canals, drainage, etc.," Futch says.
Growers also need to consider the type of irrigation they will use in their grove. Rouse says the standard spray jet emitters under each tree are turned on and off every two or three days by employees. These water a large area of soil. But some growers are considering or testing the use of open hydroponic systems. These restrict the wet zone to a small area where all the tree roots grow, Rouse says. Growers turn the system on two or three times a day and water a much smaller area only putting on enough water at any given application to wet the soil to a certain depth.