Shade for HLB Trees Means More Yield

Ashley RobinsonAll In For Citrus Podcast

Shade structures cover Hamlin sweet orange trees in a study at the Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred, Florida.

Like all photosynthetic plants, citrus trees need light to produce food. But in Florida, groves located in full sun sometimes receive more light energy than they can make use of, causing photosynthesis to slow down. When this happens, the trees invest their energy in protecting their leaves from sun damage, meaning the trees have less food available for fruit protection.

Reports suggest that citrus trees under shaded conditions may be more tolerant of citrus greening disease. Christopher Vincent, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) assistant professor of horticultural sciences, tested shade in Florida groves to determine the optimal amount for HLB-infected trees.

According to Vincent, the data indicate shade exposure promotes optimal photosynthesis, improved water uptake, increased yields and cooler leaf temperatures.

Vincent’s team constructed shelters for treatments that provided 30 percent, 50 percent and 70 percent shade, plus a control group receiving full sun.

“We found a pretty dramatic increase in yield in those trees, at least at the lowest shade level. There’s a big difference when you go from no shade to 30 percent shade,” Vincent says.  

At the 30 percent level, yield nearly tripled after one year of treatment. According to Vincent, shade can also hinder the Asian citrus psyllid’s ability to move from tree to tree, reducing the HLB disease cycle.

Learn more about the results from Vincent’s shade work here.

Additionally, Vincent is involved in another research project that is studying how to breed faster-growing plants. The project aims to improve plant performance and productivity by providing breeders with traits to enhance the photosynthetic ability of cultivated citrus.

Hear more from Vincent about his research in the January 2021 episode of the All In For Citrus podcast, a joint project of UF/IFAS and AgNet Media.

About the Author

Ashley Robinson

Multimedia journalist

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