HLB and Citrus Root Health

Ernie NeffHLB Management, Root health

Lorenzo Rossi

“We’re not going to have a silver bullet” for HLB, says Lorenzo Rossi, an assistant professor at the Indian River Research and Education Center. Instead, the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) root biologist says that researchers are trying to keep citrus producing profitably. Rossi described some of his research efforts that focus on root health in a recent interview with AgNet Media’s Taylor Hillman.

Rossi says citrus “root traits are really important when we talk about nutrient uptake,” so he is researching how changes in root traits change nutrient uptake. He describes a process in which photos of roots in the greenhouse are taken monthly to measure root growth.

“We don’t really have any nutritional guidelines for citrus because everything on citrus was written before HLB,” Rossi says. “So the nutrient requirements now are completely different from the nutrients that citrus required 20 years ago.” HLB was discovered in Florida in 2005 and quickly spread into virtually all trees in the state. Rossi says he and others are working to create new fertilization guidelines for citrus in the face of HLB.

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Rossi is also experimenting with mulch and compost, and has found that oak mulch changes the pH in the soil. He says researchers are seeing that “oak mulch is increasing the nutrient availability for the plant.”

Rossi’s research also involves the use of cover crops. “We are growing a crop, mostly legumes, that can help in restoring the health of the soil and that can increase the organic substance in the soil,” he says.

Listen to the full interview with Rossi in the March episode of the All In For Citrus podcast, a joint project of UF/IFAS and AgNet Media.

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Ernie Neff

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large