How the Best Growers Cope with HLB

HLB

 

HLB

jim syvertsen

Some of Florida’s “best” citrus growers recently told Citrus Research and Development Foundation (CRDF) researcher Jim Syvertsen how they try to cope with HLB. There was much agreement among the growers on fertilization, irrigation, the management of psyllids that spread HLB, and bactericides that have been used against HLB for more than a year.

Syvertsen says a survey conducted this summer tried “to determine what the best growers are doing to maintain citrus tree health and yields in the face of HLB. We interviewed four growers, two on the Ridge and two in Southwest Florida, whose names will remain anonymous. Some are big growers; some are small growers. Everybody, to a man, said HLB has caused them to be better managers of citrus tree health and to do a better job with irrigation, fertilizer, psyllid control and overall management of the trees.”

Syvertsen calls it “a common denominator that growers are splitting (nutrition) applications into as many applications as possible … by fertigation, dry fertilizer, foliar feeding and also controlled-release fertilizers.” He says the important thing is to spoon-feed trees with many small doses over multiple applications throughout the year.

“All of them, to a man, have maintained good psyllid management in the past, to the extent of frequent sprays for psyllids, neonics (neonicotinoids) for young trees and maintaining as small a psyllid population as possible,” Syvertsen reports. “Some have been somewhat disappointed in the populations of psyllids coming back in spite of intensive psyllid management. One of the things that they have considered … is that, if they need to cut back on costs, they might start re-evaluating their psyllid management programs.

“All of the growers we interviewed have tried bactericides — some of them multiple times — and have not been impressed with their results … The results were variable, and they are considering cutting back on bactericides next year. Some are going to continue with bactericides in the hope that they might get some more benefits than they’ve seen in the past.”

Syvertsen said the growers surveyed emphasized the importance of doing “whatever growers need to do to avoid any additional stresses. That’s the key.”

Syvertsen is a retired University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher. He made his report to the CRDF’s Commercial Product Delivery Committee on August 10.

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Ernie Neff

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large