The spread of HLB in Florida citrus groves has forced growers and researchers to try all sorts of practices to fight off the disease’s devastating effects. One of the most successful methods has been planting citrus under protective screen (CUPS). The screen excludes the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) and keeps HLB out of plantings.
CUPS also is a great example of researcher/grower collaboration. Arnold Schumann, a professor of soil and water science with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS), began studying the CUPS concept and its potential to keep HLB at bay after a trip to California where he toured a high-density planting of fresh fruit under screen.
He planted his first CUPS experiment in 2014 at the Citrus Research and Education Center (CREC) in Lake Alfred, Florida. The fundamental goal was to exclude the ACP, which has been very successful. After nearly eight years, the HLB rate in his experiment is 0.46%. That’s after the structure had to be rescreened due to Hurricane Irma.
Schumann’s CUPS caught the attention of members of the Dundee Citrus Growers Association (DCGA). Steven Callaham, executive vice president of the association, credits Schumann’s work for inspiring DCGA’s CUPS project, which has grown into largest in the United States. There are currently 450 acres planted, and the association plans to break ground on another 500 acres soon.
“Without Dr. Schumann’s work, we would not have had confidence in establishing our project,” Callaham said during the April All In For Citrus podcast. “The trees look amazing and are exceeding our expectations.”
No ACP have been spotted in the DCGA CUPS to date.
Schumann and Callaham are in contact regularly to share data and knowledge gained about CUPS.
“We have real-word data how well our CREC CUPS is performing,” Schumann said. “It is very helpful information.”
To hear more about this CUPS collaboration, listen to the April All In For Citrus podcast here.
The All In For Citrus podcast is a joint project of UF/IFAS and AgNet Media.
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