Fruit drop, drought, fruit quality, production costs, deer and Diaprepes root weevil were among problems that bothered Peace River Valley Citrus Growers Association (PRVCGA) members in the 2020-21 season. Those were the issues raised by panelists at a PRVCGA grower roundtable luncheon on May 4 in Hardee County, Florida.
“The fruit drop has been the biggest problem this year,” said Steve Johnson, who grows in Hillsborough, Manatee and Polk counties and serves as chairman of the Florida Citrus Commission. He said some of the fruit drop is the result of drought. “We’ve had some extreme dry weather,” he said.
PRVCGA President Roy Petteway, who moderated the grower panel, said it’s difficult to determine if fruit drop, which has been a problem in the HLB era, was worse this year than in the past. “Every year it always seems that it’s (fruit drop) worse than it’s ever been,” he said. “Everyone has a different opinion on it. Some were at 5% (of the fruit crop that dropped prematurely); some were up to 40%.” Earlier this season, some growers reported exceptionally heavy levels of fruit drop.
Johnson also reported that the industry experienced fruit quality issues this season, but said in an interview after the panel discussion that the fruit quality issues weren’t manifested in Florida orange juice. “There’s enough good quality out there that we can blend this” so that the finished product is of high quality, he stated.
Arcadia grower Justin Sorrells drew some chuckles when he reported that deer were a production problem in his groves this season. Deer harm young trees by eating the leaves and rubbing the bark off the trees with their antlers. Sorrells said bagging the trees with individual protective covers helped alleviate the problem.
Petteway noted that production costs that have zoomed in the HLB era are a concern to many growers. He said there are “rising costs from pesticides, from fuel, from labor … The worst thing for a grower to do is to start cutting back on the fundamentals – your nutrients, your fertilizers, your sprays, your resets especially. The minute you quit resetting your grove is the minute you’re (starting) going out of business.”
Hardee County grower Kenny Sanders reported having problems with Diaprepes root weevil, which he said is prevalent in many Hardee County groves. “Every time I spray, I put something in for Diaprepes,” he said. “And I work at that because I know they (Diaprepes) can be a disaster. We have enough problems as it is.”
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