University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher Jim Graham shares preliminary results from a new trial aimed at protecting trees from HLB infection at the Southwest Florida Research and Education Center. During the first five months of the trial, individual protective covers (IPCs) successfully kept psyllids off young trees and delayed HLB infection.
Trees under the covers also experienced increased chlorophyll and faster growth, Graham says. He believes using the IPCs for two seasons will be “highly economically advantageous” because they delay HLB infection, leading to more years of tree productivity. “These are very positive responses,” Graham says.
Graham believes the covers’ benefits will outweigh grower concerns. Those concerns include the labor intensiveness of installing the IPCs, and that the IPCs could allow entry of spider mites while creating humid conditions conducive to greasy spot.
Another concern Graham cites is that “there is a constraint on the canopy growth and twisting of the branches.” But Graham says those issues are quickly corrected after the IPCs are removed.
Since HLB was detected in Florida in 2005, growers have tried numerous other methods of protecting young citrus trees from becoming infected by HLB-spreading Asian citrus psyllids. Those methods have included insecticide sprays, use of reflective mulch and growing citrus under large screen enclosures sometimes covering several acres.
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