By Ajia Paolillo
Florida citrus growers are undoubtedly under pressure while they work daily to maintain tree health and produce quality fruit that is profitable. Growers are constantly switching gears to budget increasing production costs, address labor issues and, of course, fight HLB and other problems in the grove.
Growers are fighting HLB from many different directions, including enhanced nutrition, calculated irrigation scheduling, targeted pest management and the use of products such as plant growth regulators and bactericides.
Along with HLB, there are other production challenges growers have faced for many years, including diaprepes root weevil, nematodes and soil-borne pathogens such as Phytophthora spp. Unfortunately, with the addition of HLB, managing these other issues has become even more complex.
On May 24, I hosted a grower forum in Arcadia to help facilitate conversations and the sharing of information and ideas between growers. The goal of the forum was to have open discussions about what is working and what is not working in the grove. By sharing experiences, growers can help one another in the effort to save the industry we all love and rely on.
About 20 growers attended the forum. The discussion began with the growers listing their top challenges and the areas in which they are seeking more information. This not only helped kickstart conversations during this first forum but gave us direction and topics to focus on at future forums.
There was a wide range of topics discussed at the forum, including the use of bactericides and the effects of growers using less psyllid management and other pest control due to cost or labor issues. Unfortunately, increased populations of diaprepes and other root weevils are being observed in our region. Growers talked about their struggles with nematodes and the damage found on roots of young and mature trees.
Fruit quality was a large part of the discussion. Many ideas were brought up about why fruit quality is down, but the question is, “What can be done to improve it?”
As we continue to navigate through HLB and other challenges facing the industry, I hope that having open discussions and sharing ideas will help growers in a positive way. Maybe through these forums we can find some common trends that we can piece together to help solve this puzzle.
Be on the lookout for details about upcoming forums. If you have a great idea on a topic that you would like discussed or have information to share, please contact me.
Ajia Paolillo is a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension multi-county citrus agent based in Arcadia.
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