Soon after Florida’s citrus industry realized it couldn’t eradicate HLB, researchers and growers put a huge emphasis on controlling the Asian citrus psyllids that spread the disease. Most still agree that psyllid control remains essential in the short term to survive HLB. But many are now questioning the long-term economic sustainability of massive levels of psyllid control. Such questioning took up several minutes during the March meeting of the Citrus Research and Development Foundation (CRDF) board, comprised mostly of growers.
The cause of the discussion is summarized by Tom Jerkins, president of both CRDF and Premier Citrus Management. “I think there’s a recognition that in the shorter term, we need to focus on funding projects that do relate to how to survive with some acceptance of greening and psyllids, kind of realizing that the eradication and control of psyllids is limited,” Jerkins says. “So, can we do things, can we fund things, can we find things that allow us to both survive and maybe improve in the presence of the disease and the vector?”
“There’s always been a concern of the cost of total (psyllid) control and the level of control,” Jerkins adds. “And I think some of the thought coming out of the grower community and up through the (CRDF) board is that there are some relatively commercial stable operators with good psyllid control, but not perfect psyllid control. So the debate is out there, and some of the research ‘asks’ (requests for funding) are: Once the trees are infected, is there a more modest level of psyllid control that’s adequate, that serves the growers well commercially and actually saves them some money? So that’s a lot of discussion going on because there appears to be a lot of examples throughout the state where modest to good psyllid control seems to be adequate to stabilize yields.”
He summarizes the issue: “We’re kind of backed into trying to understand how it is that we can really have some reasonably commercial successes with lower level of psyllid control than we first assumed when we went down this path years ago.”
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