By Karla Arboleda
University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers are getting ready to conduct several trials on tools used to protect young citrus trees from HLB.
The team of five researchers will receive $665,471 in funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for experiments at the Citrus Research and Education Center (CREC) in Lake Alfred.
Lauren Diepenbrock, a citrus entomology Extension expert and leader of this research project, says she entered citrus research with questions on how HLB in trees can be managed better. The team will be examining the use of Tree Defender bags (insect-proof netting), reflective mulch and kaolin clay.
“We’re trying to figure out the whole growth parameters of using those different tools,” Diepenbrock said. “They’re great tools, but none of them are standalone; we need to figure out all the parameters to make them work for growers.”
The researchers are hoping to gather data on the efficiency of the tools in dealing with pathogens and pests. Diepenbrock anticipates seeing scales and mites develop throughout the experiment. Megan Dewdney, a plant pathologist on the team, is expecting pathogens to develop in the humidity.
“We’re hoping that when we’re done, we’ll have answers about root health, we’ll have answers about tree health and the tree growth,” Diepenbrock said.
The research, set to take place over the course of two years, will include multiple experts in addition to Diepenbrock. The CREC team of researchers includes Dewdney; Evan Johnson, research assistant in plant pathology; Davie Kadyampakeni, assistant professor of soil and water sciences; and Christopher Vincent, assistant professor of horticultural sciences. Each faculty member has different questions they are looking to answer.
“Each of us kind of has our own set of questions in our own little area, but we’re hoping we can have a nice picture at the end of how each one can be used,” Diepenbrock concluded.
Karla Arboleda is a communications intern at AgNet Media in Gainesville, Florida.
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