University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) entomologist Lauren Diepenbrock provided an update on the lebbeck mealybug pest at a recent Highlands County citrus growers’ meeting. The mealybug, first found in Highlands groves in June, feeds on and damages citrus, leading to fruit drop and crop loss.
Diepenbrock reports that surveys conducted by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Plant Industry have found the pest in groves in DeSoto, Hardee, Hendry and Lee counties. The mealybug has also been detected on a homeowner property in Broward County. “It’s probably still in more places,” she says.
Diepenbrock, who works at the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred, is researching 11 materials for lebbeck mealybug management. These materials include sprays, lures and biological controls .
While Diepenbrock has seen some positive results with imidacloprid, she says there are concerns about Asian citrus psyllid resistance to this insecticide. “My goal is to find a softer material that we can target toward the juvenile stages (of lebbeck mealybug),” she says, adding that a key to success will be timing the application of materials correctly.
Researchers are working toward obtaining data soon on several lebbeck mealybug projects. “Hopefully we’ll have a nice set of data in a few months, so we can actually provide some decent recommendations for growers,” Diepenbrock says.
While speaking at the meeting organized by Highlands County Extension director and citrus agent Laurie Hurner, Diepenbrock also addressed a new citrus pest, a long-horned beetle, discovered in the county in September.
Diepenbrock and two other UF/IFAS researchers also reported on changes to the new Florida Citrus Production Guide, which was first released to growers at Citrus Expo in August. Many Florida citrus production practices, including nutrition and irrigation, have changed dramatically in an attempt to cope with the devastating HLB disease. Reports on the changes to the Florida Citrus Production Guide will appear on CitrusIndustry.net in coming weeks.
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