Some Rootstocks Succumbed to Irma

Ernie Neffhurricane, Rootstocks


fernando alferez

Researchers inspecting their groves at the Southwest Florida Research and Education Center after Hurricane Irma found that trees on certain rootstocks were very likely to be uprooted. Fernando Alferez, a horticulturist at the Immokalee center, discusses the uprooted trees and hopes he has for fresh citrus growing.

“This is anecdotal evidence from our experience here,” Alferez says. “What we saw in adult trees from Valencia and Hamlin on different rootstocks is that (trees on) Volkameriana and Flying Dragon (rootstocks) were blown over much more than others like Swingle and Carrizo. In the case of Volkameriana and Flying Dragon, we got up to 50 percent of trees uprooted. But in the case of Swingle and Carrizo (rootstocks), we got between 2 percent and 5 to 6 percent of trees uprooted. So most of them stayed in the ground … Again, it’s anecdotal evidence, but it’s real, too.” Alferez thinks root architecture could be the reason that trees on Volkameriana and Flying Dragon were more likely to be uprooted.

Turning his attention to fresh citrus, Alferez says he thinks high-density plantings might help small-scale growers be profitable. “With high-density groves on less acreage, we have more trees and we can have smaller trees” with better protection against stress, he says. “The grower can invest less money and get more production” from the high-density plantings.

Alferez points out that there are now only about 14,000 acres of citrus grown for the fresh market in Florida. “But 50 years ago, it used to be like five times the acreage that we have now,” he says.

Alferez is originally from Valencia, Spain, where he worked in citrus. Hear more from him:

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Ernie Neff

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large