Burns on HLB, Mechanical Harvesting

Ernie NeffHLB Management

Jackie Burns

Jackie Burns, who retired in January as dean for research at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS), discusses HLB, mechanical harvesting and other citrus issues on which she worked. Burns was a long-time scientist at the Citrus Research and Education Center and later director of the center before becoming dean for research.

Burns said going to work in citrus years ago for UF/IFAS “was just everything I had imagined.”

“We’ve had challenges in the past, but we have been able to bounce back from them,” she said in noting that HLB has been “by far” the worst problem the citrus industry has faced. She noted freezes, canker and labor as other important issues the industry addressed during her career. “We’re still working on a cure for this disease (HLB), and ways in which growers can remain productive” in the meantime, she said.

Burns cited her work on mechanical harvesting as probably her greatest success and fondest memory from her career. That work included research on abscission agents that loosened the fruit, making it easier for machines to remove fruit from trees. Years ago, it looked like mechanical harvesting would be a good way for growers to be economically efficient and competitive, she said. “But when HLB … hit the scene, that became the most important issue to solve,” she added. “And mechanical harvesting just fell by the wayside, because if we don’t have a citrus crop to harvest, then what good is mechanical harvesting?”

To hear more from Burns, tune in to the latest episode of the All In For Citrus podcast. Listen to the full podcast here.

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Ernie Neff

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large