The use of individual protective covers (IPCs) to safeguard young citrus trees from HLB has become a common practice in Florida groves in recent years. Fernando Alferez, an assistant professor of citrus horticulture with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS), has led the research effort to study IPCs and their effectiveness in preventing HLB. He joined the February episode of the All In For Citrus podcast to discuss his research findings.
“We have been studying IPCs for five years now. We planted our first trial in 2018 on Valencia and covered the trees for 30 months,” Alferez said. “During that time, the trees tested negative for HLB, and we found no intrusion of the psyllid.”
The use of IPCs also demonstrated some other benefits in tree growth when compared to uncovered trees. “We found that tree growth was greatly improved with IPCs,” Alferez said. “The trees were taller, had denser canopies, larger leaves and higher chlorophyll content than those trees not covered.”
Alferez said the use of IPCs has literally changed the Florida citrus landscape. The white bags now cover entire groves. Based on a survey of growers and IPC suppliers, he conservatively estimates that about 60% of new plantings include the covers.
In more recent research, Alferez has been looking for ways to protect citrus trees after the IPCs come off. That work has demonstrated that certain plant hormones like gibberellic acid and brassinosteroids are providing additional protection and promoting tree health.
To learn more about extending HLB protection and promoting tree health after IPCs come off, listen to the latest episode of the All In For Citrus podcast. The podcast is a joint partnership between UF/IFAS and AgNet Media.
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