January is the perfect time to re-set the table. The calendar has a fresh look, New Year’s resolutions (realistic and not-so realistic) have been made, and the promise of better days lay ahead.
No doubt, the Florida citrus community could use a clean slate after the shakedown by Hurricane Irma. With new challenges afoot, and old challenges still pressing down, now is the time to put our heads together collectively and move forward.
The 2018 Florida Citrus Show, slated for Jan. 24-25 at the Havert L. Fenn Center in Ft. Pierce, provides a forum to do that, and stands as the first real opportunity for the entire industry to gather and exchange intelligence since the storm hit last September.
Once again, the two-day conference and trade show presented by Florida Grower® magazine, in partnership with UF/IFAS, the Indian River Citrus League, and USDA, plans to ply attendees with new-found knowledge, updates on deep-rooted research, and CEU opportunities.
Given that Hurricane Irma and its impact on the industry was the biggest story of the past year in Florida agriculture, a solid-sized portion of the 2018 Florida Citrus Show educational programming is dedicated to post-storm recovery.
Agenda highlights include:
• Hurricane Recovery Update: a look at aid, loan, and recovery programs
• Asian citrus psyllid management following storm damage and flush
• Rehabilitating water-damaged citrus root systems
• Bactericides application tips and efficacy expectations post-Irma
• Nursery update and inventory after
• Climate change impacts on weather events in Florida.
It’s easy for one to forget, but Irma was the first major hurricane to hit the Sunshine State with HLB endemic in all groves; so the entire industry is treading lightly in uncharted waters. Tripti Vashisth, an Assistant Professor of horticultural sciences and UF/IFAS Citrus Extension Specialist, says it is still too early to know how the disease will interact with the extra stress unleashed on trees by Irma.
“Due to the presence of HLB, the trees are already under constant stress, therefore high wind speeds, excess rainfall, and standing water all will add to that stress,” she says.
According to results in this year’s recently released Florida Grower State of the Citrus Industry Survey, 75% of respondents said they are planning to replant damaged trees. Picking the right varieties and rootstocks will be key to sustaining the sector.
UF/IFAS and USDA researchers will be giving an update on new varieties that have not only consumer appeal, but also an increased HLB tolerance.
According to Peter Chaires, Executive Director of the New Varieties Development & Management Corp., breeding programs have really stepped up since the onset of HLB to not only get the most promising processing-oriented scions released, but to continue to fill the pipeline with more material — all of which has superior traits.
“Field screenings for robust or enhanced performance in the face of HLB is a necessary part of this program,” he says. “On the fresh side, the number of developed and released selections has increased drastically. Whereas there used to be one release every 20 years or so, we have seen approximately 22 fresh selections made available through the accelerated programs and a number of private or proprietary selections come into Florida for trial.”
Speaking of fresh, lemons are trending right now. As part of the educational session agenda, researchers will shed more light on the new-found interest in and promise of this acid fruit for local producers.
“Lemon demand flows from two markets: juice and oil,” Chaires says. “Lemonade and variants thereof are among the fastest growing products in the beverage category. Florida’s climate is ideal for juice production. When you add robust tree performance into the discussion, it should come as no surprise that Florida citrus growers are gravitating to lemons.”
Still, questions abound regarding variety selection, harvesting hurdles, crop insurance, and freeze susceptibility.
“Growers need a citrus variety that will hold on the trees and that is in relatively high demand,” Chaires adds. “Though nurseries remain the primary source of information and guidance relative to planting decisions, some nurseries are reticent to engage on the issue; because like the rest of the industry, they have very little experience with lemons.”
Full Plate Ahead
Those who have attended the Florida Citrus Show in the past know the packed educational programming is just one of many facets of the two-day event. An expansive tradeshow exhibit area showcasing industry suppliers and their products, services, technologies, and equipment to help serve the industry will again be part of the program. Like always, numerous suppliers will be raffling off door prizes to lucky attendees during the event.
Also on the tradeshow floor, breeders from UF/IFAS and USDA will be displaying a wide selection of new fruit varieties for attendees to sample and savor.
The Florida Citrus Show is free to growers, researchers, students, and association personnel. To scan the Show’s full agenda, as well as to register, visit CitrusShow.com.