Florida citrus

IPCs on More Than a Million Florida Citrus Trees

Daniel Cooper IPCs

Florida citrus
Fernando Alferez researches the use of individual protective covers in citrus.
(Photo courtesy of UF/IFAS)

As recently as five years ago, Florida citrus growers did not routinely put individual protective covers (IPCs) on their trees as part of their grove management. Now, the mesh IPCs cover at least 1 million trees on about 17,000 acres, mostly thanks to experimentation by University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) researcher Fernando Alferez.

IPCs keep HLB-spreading Asian citrus psyllids off of trees. HLB is also known as citrus greening disease.


“The growth in IPC adoption has been exponential,” said Alferez, assistant professor of horticultural sciences at the Southwest Florida Research and Education Center. “The increase in IPC use is due in part to what we have communicated, but also word-of-mouth among growers who say it works for them. Of course, it’s also a data-driven decision.”

That data came after Alferez started experimenting with IPCs several years ago. In his first published study on the benefits of IPCs, Alferez found no signs of citrus greening on any of the trees covered by the mesh. Specifically, he found that psyllids cannot penetrate the bags because the diameter of their openings is smaller than the insects. The research results came as welcome news for growers.

“If you drive up and down U.S. 27 in Central Florida and other highways in Southwest Florida, you can see IPCs on many farms.” Alferez said.


While it’s advantageous that IPCs keep psyllids off of trees, Alferez also wanted to know the physiological health of trees covered with the mesh. He recently finished a new study in which he and his colleagues researched the effects of IPCs and different insecticides on young Valencia orange trees grafted onto Cleopatra rootstocks.

The scientists found that IPCs maintain the health of young trees that are already under heavy pressure from HLB. More specifically, Alferez and his team discovered that IPCs maintained chlorophyll levels in leaves.

The mesh covers also prevented an HLB-induced deficiency of foliar nitrogen and zinc, while maintaining a higher concentration of many other nutrients. In addition, IPCs prevented greening-induced accumulation of starch, sucrose and glucose in the leaves. All these findings mean healthier and more productive Valencia trees.

“We recommend IPCs as an important component of integrated pest management for this devastating disease,” said Alferez.

Source: UF/IFAS

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