A Florida company may hold the key to protecting the world’s young citrus plantings until a permanent solution for the devastating citrus greening disease (HLB) can be found. Widespread devastation from citrus greening has caused billions of dollars in lost revenue and killed over 100 million citrus trees worldwide. Although there appears to be no end in sight, the Tree Defender, a 3-D tree cover, appears promising in the battle against HLB.
After more than 2½ years of field trials, not a single citrus psyllid, the insect that causes HLB, has ever been reported on a tree protected by the Tree Defender. Additionally, not a single instance of a tree being infected by HLB has ever been reported by growers using Tree Defender.
“If we start with a greening-free tree and can guarantee the Tree Defender is used exactly how it is intended, we could guarantee a greening-free tree at the end of the first two years of that tree’s life,” say the product’s creators, Scott Thompson and Tommy Thayer from Winter Haven, Florida.
Growing citrus under large, covered structures has been getting a lot of attention lately. However, it is just not feasible for reset or residential situations and large-scale plantings. The Tree Defender can be utilized just as effectively and economically on one single tree in a residential backyard of California as it can on one million trees in a large, commercial planting.
With HLB infection rates increasing and worldwide citrus production declining, an aggressive replanting effort and the ability to keep young plantings greening-free until production age is crucial to ensuring the survival of citrus. The Tree Defender’s “set it and forget it” approach supports this effort.
The standard Tree Defender is designed to protect a young tree for the first two years of its life. Development of the next-generation Tree Defender, which can protect the tree in its third to fifth years and beyond if needed, also has been completed.
Many growers are coming to the realization that trying to combat HLB from a strictly chemical approach is not sustainable, especially in organic farming or in California where applying conventional pesticides is not even an option in some residential areas. The conventional approach is detrimental to beneficial insects and biological control efforts such as establishing populations of parasitic wasps, which are natural enemies of citrus psyllids.
Thompson and Thayer are continually amazed at how the trees appear to thrive in the micro-greenhouse environment created by the Tree Defender. They have consistently observed increased growth rates of leaf volume and size compared to trees grown using conventional methods. An additional product benefit is a reduced transpiration rate that reduces tree stress caused from moisture loss.
Although the primary target is the citrus psyllid, the Tree Defender also protects trees from diaprepes root weevil, leaf miners, sharpshooters, canopy-destroying pests such as deer, wind scarring, frost and hail damage. Customers are also using the Tree Defender to protect other crops, like tomatoes, with fantastic results.
Tree Defender is currently based out of Southern Citrus Nurseries in Dundee, Florida. For more information, visit TheTreeDefender.com.