For Florida citrus producers, there is no time like the present to get growing. That was part of the main message behind the 2012 Florida Citrus Show. The two-day event, held at the Havert L. Fenn Center in Ft. Pierce, drew nearly 700 (a new Show record) citrus industry professionals from across the state and beyond.
Presented by Florida Grower, UF/IFAS, and the Indian River Citrus League, the annual gathering featured an educational session program that touched on a wide range of hot-stove issues. Large, attentive audiences on both days listened and learned about forces impacting the Florida citrus industry including the latest research efforts, the challenges of labor, updates of citrus GAPs, new varieties for production and trial, maintaining production, pest management, and more.
The highlight of the morning session during day 1 was a panel of several of the state’s most influential growers discussing the importance of re-planting. Tom Jerkins, Blue Goose Growers; Randy Sexton, Sexton Grove Service; Bill Barber, Lykes Bros. Inc.; and Travis Murphy, River Country Citrus each spoke about how their respective operations are dealing with current challenges and why they are re-planting.
Barber said the industry needs to embrace technology in order to move forward. His operation has done so and recently started planting their trees with a pine tree planter saving time and money through efficiency.
Murphy echoed Barber’s sentiment by stressing the importance of staying proactive in thinking and action. “The only way to stop the trend of acreage shrinkage is to do things differently,” he said.
Another topic the panelists all agreed on were the reasons why the “needle is moving” for Florida citrus. A major factor in this is the continued effort among the research ranks. Multiple presentations provided varied aspects of research and the encouraging progress being made to not only produce tastier fruit, but also hardier trees. “The solution to HLB is a resistant plant,” said Harold Browning, COO, Citrus Research & Development Foundation.
Based on the information presented during the sessions, scientists are getting closer. Bob Shatters, research molecular biologist, USDA-ARS, led a discussion on introducing antibiotics into citrus for HLB management. Basal bark application therapy of antimicrobials on young trees is showing positive results in the efforts to cure a greening-infected tree and subsequently preventing infection in the first place. Interesting breakthroughs were found in the ability to apply the antibiotic mixture directly to the bark (via “nicotine patch”/painted-on approach) and have it uptake. Further studies are being conducted on more mature trees at USDA’s Picos grove, according to Shatters.
In addition, Dr. Jude Grosser, UF/IFAS, spoke about the improvement of new rootstocks and some of the genetic research being done to help solve maladies like HLB and canker. “We’re very excited about our results with transgenics and HLB,” he said. “One more year should give us an idea of which gene is working best.”
2012 Florida Citrus Show Recap ctd.
While researchers continue to make headway on the pest and disease management front, it’s important citrus growers make an investment now to ensure an industry for generations to come. “Young trees are your future,” said Phillip Rucks of Frostproof-based Phillips Rucks Nursery. “I can guarantee you this: If you don’t reset trees, your production will continue to decline. Eventually, your costs will overcome your production.”
As a complement to the educational component of the event, the Florida Citrus Show also provided a networking platform to share information, catch up with peers, and gather insight from industry suppliers. More than 80 industry exhibitors displayed products, literature, and equipment inside the tradeshow hall.
UF/IFAS and USDA citrus breeders also were on hand to slice, dice, and dish about some of the new, juicy varieties that are in development.
Gerry Bogdon, Florida Grower’s associate publisher, says feedback was positive from attendees and vendors alike. “It’s a good show, and it continues to grow.”
For more information about the Florida Citrus Show, visit CitrusShow.com.