Young Tree Establishment Tools Compared

Josh McGillCitrus Expo, HLB Management

By Ernie Neff
Reflective mulch can reduce psyllids but is costly to install.
(Photo by Jawwad Qureshi)

New tools available to aid in establishment of young citrus groves all have pros, cons and unknowns, entomologist Lauren Diepenbrock told a Citrus & Specialty Crop Expo audience in August. Diepenbrock is an entomologist and assistant professor with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

She opened her presentation by saying insecticides alone are probably not the answer for citrus insect and mite control. The new tools she said growers can incorporate into a management program are reflective metalized mulch, red-dyed kaolin and individual protective covers (IPCs).

Reflective metalized mulch has the potential to reduce infestation by the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP), which spreads HLB. The challenges of reflective mulch that Diepenbrock cited are the cost of material and installation, and the fact that the material damages easily.

Diepenbrock listed the same attributes and challenges for both red-dyed kaolin and IPCs. Both have been shown to reduce psyllid infestation as well as the proportion of trees infested with Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (CLas), the bacteria that causes HLB. The challenges for both include good coverage and proper application.

The unknowns that Diepenbrock cited were the same for reflective metalized mulch, red-dyed kaolin and IPCs. They are best irrigation and fertilization practices, impacts on other pests and beneficials, impacts on pathogens, and impacts on plant growth and development. The return on investment is also unknown, along with what happens after trees are too big for protection by those tools.

“Based on almost three years of study, IPCs outperform reflective mulch, red-dyed kaolin and monthly insecticide applications for ACP and CLM (citrus leafminer) control and for overall tree development,” a Diepenbrock slide concluded. “Trees under IPCs did not flower as robustly as trees in other treatments, which will lead to reduced fruit set.”

See Diepenbrock’s full presentation here.

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About the Author

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large