Regarding the record high populations of HLB-spreading psyllids throughout Florida’s citrus belt this year, Stopyra says: “We’ve never seen populations like we have this year, even though we’ve been spraying on a regular basis and we belong to the CHMAs (citrus health management areas). We really are at a loss to figure out what it is that we were doing wrong.”
He says his company’s production, mostly fresh grapefruit, dropped from 360 boxes per acre on average in the 2014-15 season to 325 boxes in 2015-16. The reduced production is due primarily to HLB. The company’s cost of production is approximately $2,400 per acre.
“I would say most people had a lowering overall of internal quality on fresh fruit and on juice fruit as well,” Stopyra says. Despite the decreasing interior quality, The Packers of Indian River enjoyed higher packout (percentage of harvested fruit that is packed) this season than it experienced the previous season. “The increased packout was due to the exterior quality of the fruit,” Stopyra says. “Customers buy with their eyes.”
Stopyra asks, “Can we possibly save the current tree inventory?” He answers: “I think we’ve been doing really, really well for the past 10 years. I think that those trees are now tired, and we do have a sick population out there. It may be difficult to save the current tree inventory. But without having anything to control the psyllid, I think growers will be reluctant to replant.”
He suggests some steps that might lead to saved trees. “I think we need to have some model sites where we’d be able to evaluate products and tactics that growers are using. I think we need to re-evaluate our fertilizer recommendations from the university (University of Florida), especially those for micronutrients. And I would think that we should really, really try to ramp up and figure out what to do about the psyllids.”
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