The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Citrus Research and Education Center hosted a grower forum in mid-June. An educational program during the event provided growers with information on a new HLB therapy working its way through regulatory approvals.
The peptide-based product will go by the name Aura Citrus and will be marketed by Nutrien once it has been approved for use by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Brian Thompson, co-founder and chief executive officer of Elemental Enzymes (the manufacturer of the product), said EPA registration is expected sometime this summer.
Thompson gave a presentation on the peptide, which goes by the trade name Vismax, and how it works to improve the health of HLB-infected trees. He said the company narrowed down its search to this specific peptide to fight the bacterial disease.
“We came into the citrus market with 65 different product concepts. We put all of these out in replicated trials to test how they performed against citrus greening in the (Florida) environment,” Thompson said. “The Vismax peptide was the most consistent performer across many different years and environments.”
The HLB bacteria hides in the citrus tree. Thompson said the peptide basically sends a signal to alert the tree it is under attack by the bacteria and thus turn on its defense mechanisms. This activity has improved yields in trials conducted by the company in cooperation with growers over eight years.
“The major response you will see economically is more fruit at harvest,” Thompson said. “It is not larger fruit; it is more total fruit harvested. The vast majority of this comes from reducing early fruit drop in trees.”
Thompson said field trials have shown the peptide will increase yields over the control, where no product was applied. The yield increases also seem to have a cumulative effect, with larger increases in subsequent years. For example, in a navel orange trial, the product saw a 6% yield increase in its first year (2019) of application. The next year, the yield advantage was 26%. The three-year average yield advantage was 17%.
The product should be applied during the spring flush and can be applied a second time with the fall flush. It is applied via foliar spray.
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