Orchard floor management practicies for improving soil quality and optimizing nitrogen uptake efficiency

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2000: $130,330.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2004
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $45,120.00
Region: Western
State: Oregon
Principal Investigator:
Anita Azarenko
OSU - Dept. of Horticulture

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: barley
  • Fruits: apples, general tree fruits


  • Crop Production: nutrient cycling, organic fertilizers
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, focus group, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, agricultural finance
  • Soil Management: organic matter, soil analysis, soil quality/health


    Orchardists have identified orchard floor management as critical for the success of alternative orchard floor management systems (AOFMS). This project investigated soil quality and N uptake, utilization, and distribution in a range of AOFMS. Soil nutrients, physical properties, and community structure were used to evaluate soil quality under different soil amendments (compost, bark mulch, or mowed clippings) and weed control practices (herbicide or cultivation). Trees were labeled with 15N to determine how AOFMS influenced fertilizer uptake and utilization. In general, compost had the greatest effect on soil quality and resulted in the least efficient uptake of fertilizer.

    Project objectives:

    1. Evaluate the effect of alternative orchard floor management systems on soil quality with emphasis on soil biological characteristics.
    2. Determine if the AOFMS can alter the uptake efficiency of fertilizer N, its distribution, and recycling within the tree.
    3. Determine feasibility of AOFMS in commercial orchards (by considering the effect on pest populations, tree growth, yield, and fruit quality)
    4. Perform cost and return analyses for different AOFMS.
    5. Communicate the research findings at Integrated Fruit Production workshops, grower meetings, annual professional meetings, and via grower, scientific, and web-based publications.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.