Q: Have you started replanting trees, and are you seeing more growers near you putting in new trees?
A: Yes, I hear and see more growers are replanting. In Southwest Florida, I am seeing many resets being planted and they look fine from the highway. I have heard from some growers that resets (three to seven years old) are showing HLB infection, and this varies by location.
I have lost many trees from citrus blight, enough to consider just starting over entire Carrizo blocks. Our Swingle rootstock planted on pasture land continue to thrive, but not so for the Carrizo and Swingles replanted on blight land. They decline at a rapid rate. When we initially planted/replanted 25 years ago (due to freezes), my intention was to replant resets as little as possible in the coming years. The Carrizo was a mistake, while the Swingle was a success in Southwest Florida. Additionally, in the 1980s, I planted some sweet budded rootstock trees on blight land and they have been reasonably successful — much more than the Swingles at the same site.
There is a push for high-density plantings, which may make sense or may not as it relates to HLB and yield production. In any event, if the tree costs $8, economics will determine just how many get planted per acre. If the tree cost were lower, more trees could be planted.
Because of these issues, I have not replanted any trees behind blight areas.
Q: Outside of HLB, what other research has been of interest to you?
A: Presently, there are two rooted scion cutting trials under way at the Southwest Florida Research and Education Center and Mid Florida Research Foundation. This method is not new but very old in horticulture. I visited a 40-acre grove in Lake County a couple of years ago, which was all rooted scion cuttings. It was doing quite well. I recall the grove manager rooted them himself, which was an economic advantage for him for some of the reasons described above.
Q: Where do you see the Florida citrus industry in 10 years?
A: In 10 years, the Florida citrus industry will be in business. However, we will need to focus more on building consumption and get on with more aggressive advertising and marketing. Plus, we must address health issues squarely to ease any consumer concerns.