Area-Wide Pest Management of Florida Citrus

Tacy CalliesHLB Management

Pest management

Ariel Singerman, University of Florida assistant professor, made an online presentation during the recent Agricultural and Applied Economics Association annual meeting. He shared his research on the implementation of area-wide pest management throughout the state of Florida.

“Diminishment of pest populations by farmers on their own farm is the most widely used strategy for pest control. However, this is compromised by the mobility of the pests,” says Singerman. “This is due to the fact that neighboring growers actually share the pest. And so the damage is dependent not only upon the local level of escalation, but upon the regional level of mass population as well.”

As part of the strategic plan for the Florida citrus industry to address huanglongbing (HLB), voluntary area-wide psyllid control management programs, known as citrus health management areas (CHMAs), were established in 2010. CHMAs are comprised of voluntary groupings of growers who coordinate insecticide application timing and mode of action to control the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) across neighboring groves.

According to Singerman, evidence supports that well-performing CHMAs can enhance growers’ profitability. Based on a study, yields of blocks located in an area with higher participation in coordinated sprays were 28, 73 and 98 percent higher in 201213, 2013–14 and 2014–15, respectively, compared to the yields of blocks under the same management but located in an area with lower CHMA participation.

However, CHMA participation began to drop off in 2015 with only 19 active CHMAs remaining of the original 55.

Singerman explained that despite the relatively high economic benefit that area-wide pest management seemed to provide, the strategic uncertainty involved in relying on neighbors seemed to impose too high of a cost for most growers, who end up not coordinating sprays. Therefore, many growers choose self-reliance in spraying despite the lower payoff.

In Florida, the advanced state of HLB infection combined with the lack of adoption needed for an area-wide psyllid management program to be effective and the impact of the beliefs about others’ being reluctant to participate, have contributed to make the voluntary program unsuccessful. Thus, the replacement of the voluntary nature of the program with a mandatory component may be necessary to see success. According to Singerman, it will be key to develop policies, institutions and incentives to educate the industry on adopting area-wide pest management strategies.

Ashley Robinson, AgNet Media communications intern, wrote this article.