All Hands On Deck To Save Florida Citrus

With a $10 billion a year industry at stake, last week’s Florida Citrus Show couldn’t have come at a better time. Last month’s USDA crop forecast is predicting a historically low output for oranges, and the next forecast (likely to drop the crop even further) is coming down the pike fast. The alarm has been sounded, and the sense of urgency among attendees couldn’t be missed.

Nearly 800 participants were provided the chance to circle the wagons and come away with new strategies as well as a refreshed sense of optimism over the course of the two-day gathering presented by Florida Grower, UF/IFAS, and the Indian River Citrus League at the Havert L. Fenn Center in Ft. Pierce.

While the tradeshow area (which boasted its own record number of exhibitors) was bustling, the educational session room remained packed from start to finish, showing the importance of topics being discussed. Covering a range of information that included management strategies, insect control, living with HLB, and promising treatments to reduce or eliminate HLB symptoms, a few sessions stood out as highlights.

A GMO Citrus Tree?

Ed Stover, USDA-ARS, gave an interesting presentation about the ongoing research regarding genetically engineering citrus with HLB resistance. GMOs are a touchy subject for many. However, in order to save citrus, this method might be the ultimate answer.

Do you think a GMO citrus tree will be the ultimate solution for HLB?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Stover gave it straight to the eager audience in his own words (not USDA’s) about the prospect of a GMO citrus tree and how that might play out:

  • “It likely won’t be available until at least 3 to 8 years;
  • Initial adoption will be controversial and may limit some markets. There will be a need to have very substantial benefits and/or specific markets targeted;
  • As with all disease control, there will be an ongoing evolution of improved HLB-resistant citrus cultivars;
  • As methods are refined, transgenes will precisely target priority traits, with routine multiple trait stacking;
  • Ultimately, almost all crops will be transgenic, and their use will reduce unwanted environmental impacts, increase yields, and enhance health benefits.”

Keeping Psyllids In Check

CREC’s Michael Rogers’ presentation about new research and the latest recommendations for psyllid control included analysis of Bayer’s new insecticide, Sivanto. Rogers pointed out that the product has an advantage due to its ability to be applied during bloom.

Studies, so far, have not revealed any evidence of cross-resistance, according to Rogers.

The product, which does have EPA registration, still needs to work through the Florida system.

“The goal is to have this registered for use by bloom this year,” Rogers concluded.

Can’t Forget About Canker

Though HLB rules the roost when it comes to citrus diseases, canker is still a force to be reckoned with, especially in the Indian River citrus production area. In a presentation covering citrus canker and phytophthora control strategies, Jim Graham, UF/IFAS, brought up the development of a new product called “Zinkicide.”

Invented by University of Central Florida assistant professor Swadeshmukul Santra, Graham said the antimicrobial product containing oxide of zinc could be an alternative to copper treatments. “It’s very bioactive,” he said.

Early studies on canker revealed some “very exciting results,” Graham added.

More to come on this as information becomes available.

♦ Click here to see all the tweets using the #FloridaCitrusShow hash tag ♦

Growers Tell It Like It Is

During the second day, the grower panel drew a standing-room-only crowd to the session room. Moderated by Florida Grower’s Frank Giles, the participants included Tom Stopyra, Packers Of Indian River; Tom Jerkins, Premier Citrus; Lee Jones, Gardinier Florida Citrus; Daniel Scott, Scott Citrus Management; and Courtney Forget of Cassens Grove Service.

While the conversation focused on what the growers themselves were doing to maintain production in their HLB-infected groves, Jerkins helped put a positive exclamation point to the end of the grower panel by giving a plug to all the men and women who have been working hard to find a cure for HLB.

“The scientific community (USDA and UF/IFAS) is doing a lot,” he said. “If not for these mitigation strategies, we might be out of business. It is all we have. I wanted to make sure the scientists don’t discouraged. Yes, we are discouraged, but I want to keep them pumped up. They really have the back-end covered. It is just this little piece in the middle that we need. It is coming. There are therapies that are going to be available to us in 2016, maybe 2015. They will come in waves and will be improving. Once we fill that gap, I think we are going to be in good shape.”

Topics: , ,

Leave a Reply

Florida Citrus Show Stories
Florida Citrus Show
January 1, 2015
HLB Solutions On The Front Burner For Citrus Growers
Still the hot topic, attendees to get their fill of greening info at the 2015 Florida Citrus Show. Read More
December 1, 2014
Juicy Subjects In Store For 2015 Florida Citrus Show
Day 1 of the annual two-day gathering in Ft. Pierce to provide a refresher course on HLB management strategies. Read More
February 12, 2014
Opinion: Florida Citrus Growers United In Fight For Survival
Producers are increasing the pressure on the scientific community to come up with results for the millions of dollars being invested in research. Read More
February 1, 2014
Strength In Numbers Found At 2014 Florida Citrus Show
Growers gather in droves in hopes to find silver linings amid greening worries. Read More
December 16, 2013
HLB Solutions Lead Agenda At 2014 Florida Citrus Show
The annual industry event to set up one-stop shop for gaining knowledge and growing business. Read More
July 23, 2013
Citrus Tree Rehab A Reality: 2013 Florida Citrus Show Extended Content Coverage
HLB has certainly delivered serious blows to the local citrus industry since its arrival. However, the death knell has not Read More
June 1, 2013
Orange Pricing Perplexity Starting To Add Up: 2013 Florida Citrus Show Extended Content Coverage
The law of supply and demand is a fairly simple concept. Putting a finger on citrus pricing lately has been Read More
January 30, 2012
Florida Citrus Show Draws Record Crowd
For Florida citrus producers, there is no time like the present to get growing. That was part of the main Read More