Megan Dewdney told citrus growers how to give young trees a good start in the face of HLB. Her Jan. 19 presentation was held at the Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred, where she is a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences plant pathologist.
Trees need a robust, established structural root system before they are infected by HLB, Dewdney emphasized. She said trees need optimal root health and growth from the day of planting in order to establish those structural root systems.
Not managing root balls of rootbound trees is a preventable problem, Dewdney said. Other advice for establishing young trees included not letting the roots dry out, and not jamming trees into the planting hole, which can lead to J-rooting if the lower structural roots are bent upward. Be careful of salt burn when fertilizing, she added, explaining that fertilizer in the planting hole will prevent outward root growth and is likely to cause salt burn of the roots. She also suggested monitoring for and treating phytophthora, which can stunt young trees.
Dewdney said some growers desire larger trees at planting but said that only helps if the root system is allowed to get larger. Waiting for too large a tree may cause root health problems in a few years, she added. Growers need to break up root balls at planting to help establishment and water penetration even in non-rootbound trees, she said. She suggested that growers may need to trim off spiraling roots at the bottom of the root ball.
In summary, Dewdney said planting practices affect the success of trees in the field, adding that roots are often forgotten because they aren’t easily observed. Make sure planters are inspecting the roots before planting to eliminate poor-quality root systems, she suggested. Make sure planting holes are adequately sized for root systems, she added.
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