Money provided by the Florida Legislature allows research into the positive impact of shade on trees, Bingo tree dieback and additional areas not funded by other sources.
“The University of Florida (UF) each year gets legislative appropriations from the state, and these are Citrus Initiative legislative funds,” says Michael Rogers, director of the Citrus Research and Education Center (CREC). The center is a UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences facility. The legislative funds this year amount to more than $1 million and fund about 13 to 14 UF research projects as well as some Extension projects.
Rogers discussed the legislative funding at a recent OJ Break in Bartow hosted by multi-county citrus Extension agent Chris Oswalt. Rogers summarized his presentation in an interview with Citrus Industry magazine.
One of the funded projects is looking into citrus trees growing in shade, such as those in hammocks. “The leaves are dark green, they’re (trees) producing fruit, and seem to be unaffected by HLB disease,” Rogers says. Researchers asked why that is. “The fact that’s standing out the most is … that shade does have some positive effects on plant growth,” he says. He adds that sunshine puts some stress on trees, although sunshine also offers benefits for trees.
Another project focuses on dieback of up to 10 percent reported in Bingo trees in their first couple of years, Rogers says. He adds that the dieback seems to be correlated to a fungus. “It (dieback) appears to express itself most often … when the plants are cut back very severely in the nurseries prior to going to the field,” Rogers says. “We’re in the process of developing new recommendations for nurseries that will help in the production of better Bingo growing conditions in the nursery,” he says.
Rogers says “we’ve had a very high payoff” from the projects funded with the legislative money for the past five years.
According to Rogers, growers can live with HLB in the short term if the (fruit) prices stay high. He notes that it costs money to provide good nutrition and other practices that keep trees productive in the face of HLB, and high fruit prices make it easier to fund those practices.
Hear more from Rogers:
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