Tools for Growing Citrus in the HLB Era

Ernie NeffHLB Management, Production


tom spreen

Economist Tom Spreen thinks advanced production systems (APS) and citrus under protective screen (CUPS) offer hope for some growers in the face of HLB. Spreen, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences professor emeritus, discussed APS and CUPS at a recent Gulf Citrus Growers Association economic seminar in LaBelle.

Spreen says growing with APS “means you have to spend more money up front. And so for the smaller grower, for the grower that’s gone through many years here of financial difficulty, it may not be available to them … We’re now where the industry on average has not been profitable. And so, people’s pockets are not infinitely deep.”

APS is a system of intensive input management and high-density planting “with an advanced irrigation system that’s computer controlled,” Spreen says. “It actually reduces the inputs that you’re going to apply, because you’re going to feed the trees in a fashion where they’re being fed as needed.”

Spreen says CUPS holds promise for fresh fruit, “especially these seedless mandarins, maybe even grapefruit … Now that we’re down under 5 million boxes of grapefruit, the grapefruit prices are going to go through the roof here.” CUPS is even more expensive than APS due to the high cost of enclosing a block of trees within psyllid-proof screen. By keeping out psyllids, growers utilizing CUPS hope to keep their trees free of the HLB spread by Asian citrus psyllids.

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About the Author

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large