After five years of growing citrus under protective screen (CUPS), Arnold Schumann has named Ray Ruby grapefruit and Honey Murcott tangerine as his favorite varieties to grow in the system.
Schumann is a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) researcher at the Citrus Research and Education Center (CREC) in Lake Alfred. He addressed the topic of growing fresh citrus varieties for a CUPS production system at Citrus Packinghouse Day in August. He summarized some of his key points in an interview.
“I think it’s very appropriate that we test them (Ray Ruby grapefruit and Honey Murcott tangerine) in the CUPS because both … are very vulnerable to the HLB disease,” Schumann says. He notes that Florida grapefruit production has tumbled 87 percent since 2008. The main purpose of CUPS is to exclude HLB-spreading Asian citrus psyllids. Because startup costs for the protective screen structures are high, growers focus on fresh fruit varieties that command a good price in the marketplace.
Schumann has some other varieties that he thinks hold promise for growing under protective screen, but he wants more data over more time before endorsing them wholeheartedly. He says he seeks “different varieties that mature at different times of the year” to provide marketable fresh fruit throughout the season. “Early varieties are particularly favored, so things like Sugar Belle … come to mind.” He also mentions Dancy tangerine and some other varieties as holding promise for growing under screen.
There was no commercial CUPS production in Florida a few years ago, but Schumann reports there are about 250 acres grown under protective screen now, with more coming.
Schumann says the ability for the protective structures to withstand hurricanes is crucial for growers. “We’ve had the same screen in our CUPS (at the CREC) now for five years, and we did survive Hurricane Irma,” which hit in September 2017, Schumann says. “It had damage but not catastrophic; we were lucky.”
“It’s a good system,” Schumann says, but adds that he considers CUPS “an interim solution” to HLB. The ultimate long-term solution will be tree resistance, he says. Other UF/IFAS scientists are working on developing trees that are resistant to the disease.
Hear more from Schumann:
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