By Brenda Eubanks Burnette
The headline of a Wilson & Toomer Fertilizer Company advertisement in a 1949 Citrus Industry magazine read “how to think UPSIDE DOWN — and make more money!” It included the following copy:
“If a tree can be said to think at all — it thinks from the bottom up — just opposite to Man. To make money operating citrus groves, you have to think like a tree. Here’s why:
“The care you give a tree this year — and next — determines the quality of the fruit you’ll ship three seasons from now. The better the quality of fruit you ship any season, the better the price you get — even in seasons when the average price is low.
“In other words, you must think of price in terms of fruit quality and of fruit quality in terms of tree care. A certain minimum care must be given to every tree every year to maintain an average quality that will bring you above average prices in any season.”
A few pages later was an article about post-bloom sprays and timing by W.L. Thompson, an entomologist at the Florida Citrus Experiment Station. The article states:
“In order to produce a high percentage of No. 1 grade fruit, the proper timing of the applications is almost as important as the selection of the proper insecticides and fungicides. The type of materials used and the cost of application may be equal in two spray programs, but a well timed program may result in 20 to 50 percent more No. 1 grade fruit than a poorly timed program.”
Thompson went on to note that “Usually it is practical as well as economical to combine two or more materials in one spray and the most common post-bloom combinations are: (1) a proprietary copper compound with wettable sulfur for the control of melanose and rust mites, or (2) a proprietary copper compound combined with an oil emulsion to control melanose, scale insects, and purple mites. These two spray combinations may be very effective, but if the timing of the application is disregarded a high percentage of the mature fruit may be marked with blemishes.
“With the exception of mechanical injury (wind scar), the blemishes caused by rust mite and melanose are the major natural grade lowering factors in Florida. To produce a crop of oranges free of these blemishes, it is necessary to apply the insecticide and fungicide before any injury has developed. Since melanose can infect the fruit as soon as it has set and rust mites may infest very young fruit, it is important to apply the postbloom spray as soon as possible after the petals have dropped.”
So, even though this advice was given in 1949, it seems that if we think upside down and time our actions properly, we should be well rewarded for our efforts even today.
Brenda Eubanks Burnette is executive director of the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame. Pieces of the Past is presented in partnership with Florida Southern College’s McKay Archives Center in Lakeland.
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