Peter McClure Discusses Psyllid Control

Recently, a number of pesticides have been labeled for low-volume application to control the citrus psyllid. According to the 2009 Citrus Achievement Award winner Peter McClure, this breakthrough will pay major dividends to growers in cost savings.

Peter McCLure: “Low-volume spraying and area-wide spraying are critical to our industry successfully surviving HLB. Our HLB research and commercialization program has short-term, medium-term, and long-term components. However, it is weighted towards short-term survival strategies, because if we don’t survive the short term, the longer-term investments are pointless.

“Either by ground or air, low-volume spraying is providing the fastest return on investment to the growers from the research program. By utilizing low-volume spraying, a grower can be on an aggressive psyllid-control program and reduce the cost of those sprays. The longer a grower can economically and biologically survive HLB, the closer we get to realizing returns on the medium and long-term research investments.”

Reduced Costs

“Low-volume spraying works, and application costs can be cut by half to two-thirds, both by ground or air,” McLure adds. “This is moving fast, and some spray contractors might correctly argue otherwise, but my best shot right now is that psyllid ground-spray application costs can be reduced from $25 to $35 per acre down to $8 to $12 per acre. Aerial psyllid-spray application costs can be reduced from $7.50 to $12 per acre down to $2.50 to $6 per acre. Obviously, there are a lot of cost variables that differ for each individual grove, but I’ll stand by those numbers until someone proves them wrong.

“It is also important to understand that low-volume spraying doesn’t work with every insecticide. Also, there are some very good psyllid insecticides that do not work well with low-volume sprays. These types of sprays are going to have to use standard spray volumes for now. It is imperative that all growers follow the law by adhering to the pesticide labels. We have a handful of chemicals that are now labeled for low-volume spraying. The good psyllicides that do not have low-volume labels can be tank mixed with your copper, zinc, and manganese sprays and put out at higher volumes. Also, growers must use as many different chemistries with different modes of action as possible to prevent psyllids from becoming resistant.”

Cooperation Pays Off

“Low-volume spraying works,” McCLure concludes. “Area-wide, low-volume spraying is psyllid control on steroids. It is a way to magnify the efficacy and cost reductions of low-volume spraying. We can kill more psyllids for the least possible amount of dollars by utilizing area-wide, low-volume spraying. Citrus areas that have large contiguous acres will be able to achieve the lowest end of the cost range by utilizing area-wide, low-volume aerial sprays. But even smaller-acre growers can achieve huge savings by working together and coordinating the timing of their low-volume ground sprays.

“Area-wide spraying gives the psyllids no place to hide, and dramatically lengthens the time it takes for psyllid populations to rebuild. The more area-wide sprays you and your neighbors employ together, the fewer total number of sprays you will need to make. The cost to you is that you have to actually try to get along with your neighbor. It is a cooperative effort that will pay off.”

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