Several Florida growers recently have said that groves in the Gulf citrus region of Southwest Florida are looking better than most groves in the state. Additionally, statistics indicate production in the Gulf region exceeds production in the state as a whole.
Multi-county citrus Extension agent Mongi Zekri, who represents the Southwest/Gulf region, was recently asked why the Gulf was doing better than other areas in the face of HLB.
”We started the CHMA (citrus health management area) over here much earlier than anybody else,” Zekri says. “And most of our groves are very large if you compare them to other groves.” In CHMAs, growers coordinate the materials and timing of sprays for HLB-spreading Asian citrus psyllids in hopes of controlling psyllids over wide areas. Many researchers and growers agree that CHMAs have a better chance of working when everyone in a large area coordinates psyllid sprays. Having numerous large groves participating in CHMAs provides an advantage in maintaining area-wide psyllid control. “Growers are spraying more to control the psyllids more frequently, and they are doing a good job for the psyllid population,” Zekri adds.
Zekri also credits attention to nutrition for the Gulf’s relative success with HLB. “People have been using nutrition,” he says. “Nutrition programs are helping a lot really with dealing with HLB.”
It was in a Gulf region grove that grower Maury Boyd introduced a cocktail of nutrients and other products that helped him maintain production in the face of HLB. Boyd also put a heavy emphasis on psyllid control. Many growers have tried a cocktail similar to Boyd’s, and growers and manufacturers have also created other nutritional programs in an effort to curtail the effects of HLB.
Although the Gulf has seemingly done better coping with HLB than other regions, it and all other citrus-growing regions have suffered heavy production and tree losses. HLB was first discovered in Florida in 2005, and there is no known cure for the disease.
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