Mike Irey of Southern Gardens Citrus explains why he thinks “flipping” the standard focus of psyllid control from young trees to mature trees can actually help young trees grow stronger in the face of HLB. Irey, director of research and business development, spoke at the recent International Citrus Business Conference in Daytona Beach.
Irey explains that HLB is spread two ways. Primary spread occurs when psyllids first bring HLB into the planting. This often occurs when psyllids from mature citrus trees fly into a young grove. The secondary type of spread is when the insect is already in the planting and moves to neighboring trees. He says the Florida citrus industry has been focusing on controlling the secondary spread by spraying young trees two to four times a month and “have been largely ignoring the primary spread, which is coming from the outside” into young groves. The result has been “very high (HLB) infection very quickly in a matter of a couple of years” in new citrus plantings.
By flipping this strategy and focusing on psyllid control on the old trees, while still doing a reasonable job on the young trees, “you can reduce the infection by four-fold or more,” Irey says. “By doing that, you can delay the infection and that gives the opportunity for the trees to grow bigger and stronger and get up to size.”
According to Irey, this approach has been very successful in Brazil. “Not only have they been able to maintain a very low rate of infection, they have actually been able to reduce the rate of infection. So it works,” he concludes.
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