CUPS Not for All Citrus Growers

Tacy CalliesCUPS

Grapefruit grown in the citrus under protective screen system can produce large fruit (cell phone for size reference) at high yields.

One of the unique ways of managing citrus greening disease developed by University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) researchers is not for all producers. Citrus under protective screen (CUPS) is just too expensive for all growers to take advantage of, says Fred Gmitter, a UF/IFAS citrus breeder.

“It’s an extremely expensive investment,” Gmitter says. “For that investment to be worthwhile, you have to be growing something you’re going to get top dollar for. You’re not going to be growing sweet oranges for juice in CUPS.”

Right now, grapefruit is one of the main types of citrus being grown in CUPS. “There is some demand for grapefruit, but the supply is really low,” says Gmitter. “Anybody that’s got any grapefruit is going to make a lot of money. Grapefruit are really productive in that system. Dr. (Arnold) Schumann demonstrated that. There’s an opportunity there; it’s going to be certain niche varieties.”

Studies done at the Citrus Research and Education Center (CREC) have shown that CUPS excludes the Asian citrus psyllid, which spreads huanglongbing (HLB) or citrus greening disease. CUPS prevented HLB for six years at CREC. This is significant since the CUPS system is located next to trees infected with the disease and its vector.

Because CUPS is so costly, the return on investment is not likely to be quick. Therefore, growers are clamoring for varieties that are fruitful immediately.

“All the guys I know that are doing CUPS are always asking me, ‘Give me the variety that’s going to set 100 boxes of fruit in year one, and I don’t have to do a whole lot of work, just pick fruit,’” Gmitter says. But there is risk, he warns.

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Clint Thompson