Growers already producing fresh citrus under protective screen (CUPS) were among approximately 30 attendees at a CUPS field day Dec. 12 at the Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred, Florida. Lead CUPS scientist Arnold Schumann with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and other researchers described activities in the screened-in facility.
Attendees saw much fruit hanging on trees in the 1.3-acre structure, which is designed to exclude Asian citrus psyllids and thus keep trees free of HLB disease.
A handout distributed at the field day stated that Ray Ruby, Ruby Red and Flame grapefruit, as well as Honey Murcott, thrive in CUPS. The handout indicated Ray Ruby grapefruit in the 2018-19 season, the fourth year of CUPS production, yielded an average of 892 boxes per acre with 100 percent packout. Honey Murcott yielded an average of 529 boxes per acre with 100 percent packout. The per-acre yields were extrapolated from actual production of .24 acres of Ray Ruby grapefruit and .34 acres of Honey Murcott. Revenues were $25.89 per box for Ray Ruby, or $23,094 per acre, and $42.48 per box for Honey Murcott, or $22,472 per acre.
The handout also noted that CUPS comes with a high establishment cost and that “citrus grown must be high yielding, high quality, with potential to generate high fruit revenue.”
Mandarins, oranges, lemons, a lime and a tangelo are also being produced in the screened facility at the CREC.
“Emphasis is on producing larger, clean fruit with good color; red grapefruit varieties and Honey Murcott are good choices,” the handout stated. It added that “Early Pride, Dancy, Kinnow, Sugar Belle, UF914 and others need more data to build (a) knowledge base for CUPS production.”
A list of “other requirements for a successful CUPS” included weekly scouting for pests, frequent spraying for diseases and pests, and regular leaf nutrient analyses to optimize the fertigation program. That list also noted that “citrus varieties grown in CUPS must be self-pollinating” as well as heat tolerant.
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