Growers Discuss CRAFT Projects

Ernie NeffResearch


Four Florida growers recently discussed efforts they’ll take to cope with HLB in plantings subsidized by the Citrus Research and Field Trial (CRAFT) program. Their comments were part of a virtual educational session sponsored by the Citrus Research and Development Foundation (CRDF) and Florida Citrus Mutual.

CRDF Chief Operating Officer Rick Dantzler said the projects discussed were among 103 funded so far by CRAFT. CRAFT uses state and federal funding to subsidize Florida growers planting new citrus trees. The CRAFT growers choose from a variety of HLB mitigation strategies to show how those various techniques work in large-scale field trials over time. Dantzler noted that because CRAFT projects have just begun, no research data is available yet for any projects.

Tamiami Citrus Vice President Ron Mahan said his company will conduct a trial on the use of brassinosteroid. He said reduced fruit drop is one of the results his company hopes for. Fruit drop, and resulting production loss, is one of the greatest problems in HLB-affected trees.

US-942 rootstock and individual protective covers (IPCs) will be tried in Graves Brothers Citrus CRAFT projects. Graves Brothers Vice President of Agricultural Operations David Howard, who serves as CRDF president, said citrus trees protected by IPCs appear to have no HLB infection after two years.

Cornelius Caldwell of Caldwell Family Citrus said he thinks the use of compost in his CRAFT project will make roots and trees healthier and combat HLB. In his project, 4 tons of compost will be applied and disked in on each acre.

In a project at its grove near LaBelle, A. Duda & Sons, Inc. will conduct trials of the scions Salustiana and Vernia sweet oranges on seven different rootstocks. Duda Director of Grove Operations Joby Sherrod said the project was planted in 2020.

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Ernie Neff

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large