Florida Citrus Mutual’s sixth annual conference in Bonita Springs was another success, as growers, academia, and allied industry gathered together to face the challenges of the day. There was a “we’re all in this together” attitude about the event.
The 2010 Florida Grower Citrus Achievement Award winner Jerry Newlin was presented his trophy with a special recognition during the conference banquet. Newlin’s tireless work on behalf of the industry made him a popular choice among his peers.
Greening, Greening, Greening
The conference’s educational session was largely dedicated to citrus greening. Growers are interested in their multimillion dollar research investment to fight the disease, so attendees were provided an update on activities of the new Citrus Research and Development Foundation (CRDF). CRDF chief operating officer Dan Gunter noted that CRDF was established to put a corporate structure in place to facilitate commercial development of any research breakthroughs. The purpose of the body is to move research beyond the vacuum of academia into a peer-reviewed environment that is focused on results. The good news for conference attendees was this structure is now in place and millions of dollars have been unleashed to find solutions to greening.
Cooperation Is Key
Attendees were given a summary of the 307-page report on greening from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) during the gathering.
NAS reported — first and foremost — growers must control the psyllid, while research seeks longer-term solutions. With that in mind, the No. 1 organizational recommendation from the body was to establish citrus health management areas (CHMAs). As is traditional in the citrus industry, acronyms take on a life of their own and soon everyone at the conference was talking about [Chee-MAs] to fight the psyllid.
CHMAs will seek to coordinate growers in different areas to spray for psyllids in a unified manner over a short window of time. Several groups have already arranged “area-wide” sprays with good success. These cooperative efforts have more effectively reduced psyllid populations than in areas where growers are applying on their own.
The most anticipated session during the annual conference was a panel discussion on foliar nutrition as a means of dealing with citrus greening. Dr. Jackie Burns, interim director of the Citrus Research and Education Center, Jerry Newlin, vice president of grove operation for Orange-Co, Maury Boyd, citrus grower, and Mike Irey, director of research for Southern Gardens Citrus, participated in the panel and presented varying points of view.
Boyd’s grove in Felda has become the stuff of legend since he began treating it with a cocktail of nutrients. It appears that his groves have declined less than others highly infected with greening, which has drawn a lot of attention in recent years, not without controversy.
Dr. Burns presented the position of UF/IFAS, which remains that growers should control the psyllid, scout for greening, and remove infected trees. However, recently IFAS did modify its guidance to acknowledge foliar nutrition as an option for growers dealing with greening. She did caution that once you go down the road of foliar nutrition, abandoning tree removal, there is no turning back. In a sense, you are managing the grove down.
Southern Gardens Citrus has been a leader in the fight against greening from the earliest days. It has aggressively pursued the removal of inoculum by taking out infected trees. Irey presented compelling data that by pursuing this path infection rates will peak and eventually begin to stabilize or come down. He showed data from Brazil, where tree removal is mandatory, that seemed to confirm his strong belief.
Boyd then presented the components of his foliar nutrition program and noted that they’ve not seen fruit drop this year in the nearly100% infected grove, but he was not sure why. He noted his interest in psyllid repellents and called for more research into this area.
Finally, Newlin presented how Orange-Co is addressing greening in its groves. While they are on a strict tree removal program, he says they are applying foliar nutrients more aggressively and monitoring what is happening with the practice in other groves. He characterized his position as more middle of the road, having appreciation for Southern Gardens’ approach and what Boyd is doing.
A special thanks to Jerry, the nominees, and growers everywhere who continuously aspire to improve our citrus industry. We are honored to be working with you to provide long-lasting pest solutions that work for you.