All indications are that the recent widespread use of individual protective covers (IPCs) on young citrus trees in Florida is beneficial, especially for excluding Asian citrus psyllids and the HLB they spread. If there is any downside, it may be that some other pests and diseases are more prevalent under IPCs.
In a recent American Society for Horticultural Science webinar, citrus horticulturist Fernando Alferez discussed the pests and diseases that are more prevalent in trees with IPCs compared to uncovered trees. Alferez works as an assistant professor at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Southwest Florida Research and Education Center in Immokalee.
Alferez reported that greasy spot and sooty mold are favored by IPC conditions. Snow scale is also more prevalent with IPCs but was controlled with insecticide treatment. Black and purple scales, which were absent in uncovered trees, were present under IPCs, Alferez said. Fall armyworm infestation was the main problem in IPC trees, he added.
On the other hand, Alferez reported an abundance of good news about IPCs during the webinar:
- IPCs effectively protect newly planted citrus trees against psyllid infestation and avoid HLB infection. No psyllids were found inside IPCs during a 30-month trial.
- IPCs promote young citrus tree growth and favor bloom and fruit set.
- Canker incidence is reduced by IPC conditions.
- Fruit quality is greatly improved with IPCs, and more soluble solids are produced by fruit under IPCs.
- IPCs significantly reduced citrus leafminer damage.
Alferez also reported that combining IPCs with brassinosteroids “is a very promising strategy to further protect young citrus trees.” That strategy “remains to be fully tested,” he added. Other research he discussed indicated that brassinosteroids reduce the rate of HLB infection in newly planted trees that are not covered with IPCs.
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