Jim Snively, vice president of grove operations for Southern Gardens Citrus, discusses planting density and technology that may hold promise for coping with HLB.
Tree density trials were planted in 2012 at Southern Gardens. After six years, the best results have come from trees planted at about 363 trees per acre, Snively reports. “Everything we’re doing today, we try to target and plant a minimum of 300 trees per acre,” he says.
“We’ve been using variable rate application,” Snively adds. The company uses equipment that monitors tree size and applies more fertilizer and chemicals to larger trees and less to smaller trees. “We see anywhere from a 20 to 30 percent reduction in our chemical usage and fertilizer usage, so it helps reduce our costs,” he says. “We feel that’s a very big part of surviving this disease because it’s so expensive with the amounts of materials we’re using. We’re also doing more automation with our irrigation systems, which allows us to do more with either continuous feeding or more frequent fertilizer injection applications.”
Snively adds that the company plans to utilize aerial imaging and more grid soil sampling in the future. “We’re going to see if we can’t zero in on areas where we may use precision agriculture” to determine where to adjust fertilizer applications, he says.
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