Phil Stansly, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences entomologist, discusses alternatives to imidacloprid for helping to control HLB-spreading Asian citrus psyllids (ACP).
“Imidacloprid of course is typical of the neonicotinoids that we’ve been using as soil applications to protect young trees,” Stansly says. “We’ve seen and the growers have seen, too, that soil applications of systemic insecticides are not sufficient to protect the trees, and we need some other practices that will help augment those. Now we’re seeing problems with imidacloprid because it’s being overused, and it needs to be alternated with sprays of other materials on young trees. So we need to ease up on the imidacloprid, but we need to look for other ways to protect young trees from psyllids and thus greening (another name for HLB).”
Stansly says reflective mulch is “one very powerful tool” against HLB-spreading psyllids, and some growers now see its value. Citrus under protective screen (CUPS) and small cages around trees are other mechanisms for coping with psyllids, Stansly says.
Proper fertigation and irrigation and the use of compost can also help in HLB management, Stansly says. “Those are things that don’t directly affect either HLB or ACP, but they do help the tree grow,” he says. “So it’s about horticulture, and it’s about growing the tree.”
Stansly also addresses some of the reasons psyllid populations have increased in recent years. “A lot of the growers are easing off the insecticides just because of cost considerations,” he says, adding that much money is being diverted to the use of bactericides. “Maybe that’s part of it,” he says. “I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing to ease off, but we need to be smarter about how we do it. I think that we can improve the efficiency of our use of insecticides and also help bring back the biological control which we largely have blown out of our groves with a lot of our broad-spectrum insecticides. I think better choices of insecticides and better choices of how to use them can help us bring back biological control as a tool.”
Stansly was summarizing points he made during a presentation at the early-April Florida Citrus Growers’ Institute in Avon Park.
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