CUPS Research in Indian River Area

Ernie NeffCUPS

Johnny Ferrarezi

Research into citrus under protective screen (CUPS) in the Indian River area was discussed by students of Rhuanito (Johnny) Ferrarezi at the Florida State Horticultural Society meeting in June. The project at the Indian River Research and Education Center (IRREC) grows grapefruit, the citrus of most economic importance in the Indian River region. Ferrarezi, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) researcher, summarizes his students’ reports.

Regarding a presentation about environmental parameters inside the CUPS, Ferrarezi notes that temperature, humidity and light change inside the structure. The researchers want to see how those changes can impact production recommendations. “We are trying to keep track of all that information in order to adjust the irrigation recommendations for protecting the environment” and maximizing tree growth, Ferrarezi says.

Another study is aimed at improving yield and fruit quality of Ruby red grapefruit under the protective screen. Ferrarezi says grapefruit on US-897 rootstock is yielding about 580 boxes per acre.

“That’s a great result,” he says, adding that the fruit also has high quality. “We’ve been seeing that the yield can be maintained over time,” he says.

According to Ferrarezi, there’s no HLB on trees inside the CUPS. He says HLB-spreading Asian citrus psyllids got inside the screened structures when Hurricane Irma damaged the facility in September 2017. Researchers sprayed for psyllids, and the trees are still negative for HLB.

So, he says, “having perhaps an outbreak (of psyllids) caused by the screen rupture might not compromise the entire investment. So that’s a pretty good outcome.” Ferrarezi hopes the research shows that growers can grow grapefruit profitably under screen.

UF/IFAS began CUPS research at the IRREC and the Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred to see if exclusion of psyllids can keep trees free of HLB and profitable. All fruit grown is high-value fresh fruit. Virtually everyone in the industry agrees that lower-value juice fruit cannot be profitably grown in CUPS, which are expensive to construct.

Hear more from Ferrarezi:

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Ernie Neff

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large