This Q&A is the first installment of four special features honoring the 2016 Florida Grower® Citrus Achievement AwardSM winner Marty McKenna.
Q: Regarding HLB, what are you observing in your groves?
A: We have groves in Polk, Hardee, Highlands, and Hendry counties, so we can get a feel of what is happening in various areas. In Polk County, we hit rock bottom last season. The previous two seasons, they were crashing down, but they were good groves when compared to statewide average. This year, the Polk County block was up more percentage-wise than any other of our blocks in the state. We hope, once these blocks hit rock bottom, we can gain some equilibrium. It won’t be like pre-HLB, but something the trees can maintain.
Q: How do you feel about the approval of using antimicrobial products to fight HLB?
A: If these products help us maintain production on younger trees, it could have a huge impact. We have applied them to our citrus, but it is way too early to tell yet. We hope to at least get a slight bounce from the antimicrobials whether it be more boxes, better quality, or lack of fruit drop.
It was a big lift getting these products in the hands of growers. It required everybody in the industry working together from the growers, association folks, researchers, and regulatory people. And, you have to give credit to Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam who basically stuck his neck out by declaring the crisis exemption to get these products in our hands in a timely manner.
Special thanks to Arysta LifeScience for sponsoring the Citrus Achievement Award.