Citrus under protective screen (CUPS) does a great job of safeguarding trees from the HLB-spreading Asian citrus psyllids. However, CUPS does not protect trees from all other pests.
The benefits of eliminating HLB are immediate and include rapid, normal tree growth, higher yields of premium-quality fruit and less fruit drop. Since CUPS is a relatively new system, researchers are still answering many questions about the technology to update production guidelines.
“The screenhouses exclude the psyllid, but other insects can still enter the CUPS house,” said Jawwad Qureshi, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) entomologist. “Growers will still need to monitor and manage pests and predatory mites found in the structure.”
Qureshi, who works at the Southwest Florida Research and Education Center in Immokalee, spoke about pest management during the March 25 UF/IFAS CUPS Field Day at Vo-LaSalle Farms.
According to Qureshi, an array of pests can bypass the permeable screen of the CUPS structure and still get to the trees, or they can hitch a ride in on equipment and people. These pests include leafminers, scales, thrips, mites, mealybugs and armyworms.
Qureshi said constant monitoring is key to managing pests that enter the structure. Even with good chemical control, it can be difficult to manage some of these pests, especially if they have established populations. If growers come across these pests, Qureshi recommends taking immediate action to prevent further spread. Foliar insecticides or biological controls can be used.
To be safe, growers should also monitor for Asian citrus psyllids. Although unlikely to enter the structure, there is a chance psyllids could enter through transportation by humans or equipment. Psyllids can also get to trees if inclement weather causes damage to the structure.
Overall, the CUPS growing system provides an environment for sustainable growing practices. The structure requires less water, pesticides and fertilizers, further protecting natural resources.
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