The Florida Citrus Growers’ Institute, presented by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, was held in Avon Park on April 4. The annual educational event drew a good crowd of growers and allied industry. After nearly two decades of fighting HLB, and more recently fallout from hurricanes, those in attendance expressed a renewed sense of optimism as new trunk-injection therapies are being applied in groves. Many are hopeful the treatments will improve the health of HLB-infected trees.
That sentiment was echoed by a grower panel held during the event. Growers Kenny Sanders, Wayne Simmons, David Wheeler and Joby Sherrod participated in the discussion.
Wheeler said seeing trial results of oxytetracycline-hydrochloride (OTC-HCl) trunk injection encouraged his family to start planting trees again after being idle for two years.
“When we went to see the trials of OTC-HCl, that’s when we decided to put the loaders back in the grove. We are going back to resetting mostly with Valencia and Vernia,” Wheeler said. “Give me about nine months, and if it still looks promising, we’ll put some fresh fruit in the ground.”
“This first year with OTC-HCl is kind of a learning curve for us to establish the net benefits and costs. That will help us build our plan going into next year,” Sherrod said. “And, if all indications stay the same, we’d increase the amount (of area covered) next year.”
The growers discussed what varieties and rootstocks they are planting or will be planting soon.
As for rootstocks, US-942 has been a popular selection with the growers on the panel and the rest of the industry. Because of demand, availability of the rootstock has been a challenge in some cases.
Simmons discussed his experience with the early-season sweet orange N13-32. He said he’s been pleased with it, but it is not the definitive early-season answer. Although, he added, it is the best thing going as far as current Hamlin choices.
“We have been picking about 200 boxes per acre off N13-32,” Simmons said. “We started applying gibberellic acid to the trees last year and had set the best crop we’ve ever had on the trees, but the hurricane took about 70% of that crop. We’ve planted some OLL-8 that has done well, too. We’ve had some fruit drop with it, but the quality has been pretty decent. I am pleased with it so far.”
Sherrod, who is the agronomy manager for Alico, said about half of the company’s new plantings have been dedicated to Valencia. About 40% of plantings have been split between Hamlin and Vernia.
“Hamlin and Vernia plantings have been pretty close,” Sherrod said. “The balance of other plantings have been some of the newer scions like OLL, along with some grapefruit.”
Sherrod added that making definitive conclusions about the best scions and rootstocks have been complicated by hurricanes since 2017, freezes and HLB.
Sanders said that Swingle rootstock has performed well for him over the years. But he’s made a transition with more recent resets.
“Most everything I am putting in now is Valencia on US-942,” Sanders said. “I have some US-802 rootstock that also looks good.”
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