Florida Citrus Nursery Production Back On Track

Nursery capacity and production have been increasing the past three years after a four-year period of decline. Although the number of citrus nurseries is lower than five years ago, the average production per nursery has increased.

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According to the Bureau of Citrus Budwood Registration, the average nursery made approximately 85,000 propagations this fiscal year. Forty-six percent of Florida’s nursery trees are produced in Polk County. Forty-four commercial citrus nurseries reported making nearly 3.8 million propagations in 15 counties for the fiscal year (7/1/2008 thru 6/30/2009). It is important to note that only 20 nurseries produce 87% of the trees.

Catching Up To Demand

Phil Rucks Citrus Nursery is one of the largest in the state and was featured as Florida Grower’s cover story in May 2008. According to Rucks, the nursery infrastructure is back in place after years in deficit. Today’s nurseries are required to be in protected closed shelters to keep out citrus psyllids.

“The citrus nursery tree shortage resulting from the nursery tree destruction of the defunct canker eradication program has caught up with the tree demand,” says Rucks. “Now, it’s up to the citrus nursery industry to maintain a quality, disease-free product.

“Initially, it was a huge investment with high risk due to the absence of financial assistance. Growers have been very supportive of the transition in paying the higher tree cost to help offset the investment nurseries had to make.”

Strong Representation

Rucks adds that he is happy with the strong representation provided by the new relations with the Florida Nursery, Growers & Landscape Association (FNGLA). Ben Bolusky, the association’s executive vice president, says FNGLA is excited to represent the citrus growers and that there is no shortage of issues to address.

“FNGLA has already stepped in to help Florida’s citrus nurseries,” says Bolusky. “FNGLA is working hard to convince USDA to allow the resumption of retail sales and shipment of citrus trees to homeowners in non-citrus producing states.

“The lack of crop insurance for citrus nurseries is a thorn, as is the lack of readily available greenhouse structure insurance issues that mutually impact growers of citrus trees and landscape plants. There also are a multitude of labor issues, such as immigration reform and Worker Protection Standard training. Issues pertaining to quarantines and crop protection tools are also expected to raise their heads. Rules governing citrus stock in retail garden centers is another one of those issues that cuts across the citrus and landscape industries.”