Citrus Research and Education Center Director Michael Rogers says while much progress has been made in dealing with HLB, many growers now face economic woes because of high orange juice inventories. He discusses some decisions that growers facing those economic issues will have to make and offers some suggestions.
“We’ve come a long way since HLB came to Florida,” Rogers says. “We’re learning how to live with this disease and how to manage it better to increase our yields. But as everybody’s aware, we’ve got a new problem that our growers are facing right now, and it has to do with juice inventories. Oversupply is pushing our prices down. And this is weighing particularly heavy on growers right now … that don’t have contracts (for their fruit).” He adds that even those on the cash market who are getting offers are being offered very low prices.
Rogers says he can’t tell growers in this situation how they might best allocate money for grove management. But, he says, “If you’re committed to staying in citrus for the long term, you cannot stop managing your groves.” He says it takes a long time to make groves productive, and if management practices are stopped, “it takes a couple of years for the trees to respond, and for health to improve and the yields to come back.” He adds that individual growers should “think about fine-tuning management practices to the specific grove situation.”
In making their decisions, growers should continue to prioritize nutrient and water management, Rogers says. “It’s what you’re doing with the nutrients and water that’s really what’s keeping those groves alive and maintaining tree health, and this should absolutely be the number one consideration for growers,” he says. He adds that it’s very important for growers to conduct soil and leaf analysis to ensure trees are getting the nutrients they need.
Rogers also says it’s important to maintain control of the Asian citrus psyllids that spread HLB. “There’s still value to controlling psyllids, but we probably don’t need to be spraying as much as we have in the past,” he says.
This interview with Rogers is featured in the December All In For Citrus podcast, a joint project of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and AgNet Media. Listen to the full podcast here.
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