Larry Black, general manager of Peace River Packing Company in Fort Meade, told growers at the recent Florida Citrus Mutual conference about his company’s success with high-density plantings.
Black reported some four-year-old Valencia blocks are producing more than 300 boxes per acre. That’s double the current average Florida citrus yield of about 150 boxes per acre in the face of HLB. “And based on tree health, it appears the yields are going to increase again next year,” Black said.
“We see that there’s not a silver bullet (for HLB), that we have to use the tools that we have available,” Black said. “And it’s clear for the first 15-plus years of a grove’s life, high density has an economic advantage, particularly with today’s (high) prices.”
According to Black, Peace River Packing Company’s go-to density this year and the last several years has been 303 trees per acre. “But the company recently planted one 25-acre block with 495 trees per acre. Some of our better producers are young, high-density blocks,” he said. “Definitely it requires intensive management. It takes a lot of capital up front for the trees and the infrastructure to put in. We’re managing them intensively and it’s paying off.”
That intensive management includes a high level of psyllid control. “We’re spraying roughly once a month, depending on the time of year,” Black said. “It works out to be about 12 to 13 psyllid-control sprays a year company-wide on all the acreage. On our young blocks, our high-density blocks, we’re supplementing with an additional spray per month. So it’s an every-two-week spray cycle in addition to the soil-drench applications that we’re applying at maximum rate.”
Black encouraged other growers to look at high density, to plant trees and to renew their groves. “It’s a fun exercise for a citrus grower to see a successful block in today’s environment,” he said.
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