Grower Mood Mixed at Mutual’s Annual Conference

Daniel CooperEvents

The 2024 Citrus Industry Annual Conference drew a good crowd of growers eager to turn the corner on HLB. The educational program during the event provided evidence progress is being made in the fight.

Florida citrus growers gathered in rainy Bonita Springs last week for the Florida Citrus Industry Annual Conference. The event hosted by Florida Citrus Mutual drew a good crowd, who were happy to see the heavy rains brought by a no-name tropical system that helped break the drought in some areas of the state.

The mood of growers was mixed. While there was hope that HLB trunk-injection therapies might have resulted in more dramatic improvements to this year’s crop, there also was recognition that these therapies represent one of the best opportunities to date for the state’s citrus industry to bounce back.

The educational program presented during the conference reflected positive industry developments. Rick Dantzler, chief operating officer of the Citrus Research and Development Foundation, moderated the seminars and said the program was meant to give growers faith that better days are ahead. This is backed up by evidence that science and new approaches might be finally catching up to HLB.


As for the mixed results of the oxytetracycline (OTC) therapies, Dantzler related an antidote that was shared by grower Morgan Porter during a recent public meeting.

“She said that if you and I or a couple of other people join the gym tomorrow and started working out, in a year we all would not look the same. What she is saying is true that we are all not starting out at the same spot,” Dantzler said. “Some trees have been affected by the hurricanes, there are soil differences, whatever variable it may be (impacting treatment results). So, we recognize not everyone’s experience has been the same, but we do really believe we are on the right track (with these therapies).”

Ute Albrecht, associate professor of plant physiology with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS), presented her latest research results from OTC field trials. She said the treatment continues to show significant improvement in tree health and yield.

UF/IFAS professor emeritus Jim Graham spoke about samples of citrus roots, which indicate the OTC treatments are improving root mass and should help trees bounce back from Hurricane Ian better than after Hurricane Irma. Citrus Industry magazine featured this research in its June issue.


Bob Turgeon, a professor of plant science biology at Cornell University, presented research on utilizing anchored antibodies to arrest the HLB bacteria in trees. While it is complicated science, in simple terms he said antibodies could be programmed to target HLB bacteria and stop it in its tracks from the point where it enters the tree from psyllid feeding sites and other sites. It would essentially make the disease non-functional in citrus trees.

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Frank Giles


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