Spoon-feeding nutrients through root systems and protecting new leaf flushes are among ways Jude Grosser believes growers can maintain tree health in the face of HLB. Grosser, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences professor, is best known as a citrus breeder.
Grosser said he started working with nutrition because “like any grower, I don’t like to see my babies crash and get sick and die.” So he led a greenhouse study in which “we learned that the micronutrient deficiencies are about double in roots what they are in the leaves … So we started figuring out ways to spoon-feed these nutrients through the root systems” with controlled-release fertilizer. Some growers are following up on his findings and developing good nutrition programs utilizing spoon-feeding, he says. “When you do this, you can restore tree health, and now growers have taken it to another level with fertigation and liquid nutrition, so there’s been a real revolution in the industry. So I think focusing on root health is really the key to restoring an adequate level of health and productivity to existing trees in the grove.”
Grosser also thinks growers need to focus on protecting new leaf flushes. “If you allow psyllids or leafminers … to do severe damage to that flush, the plant’s already compromised and wasting a lot of its energy to produce leaves it’s never going to use, and it’s a real negative for the plant,” he said.
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