Bactericides come to the aid of the citrus industry


FOLLOWING MONTHS of urgent requests and hopeful anticipation, Florida citrus growers now can deploy additional weapons of a liquid kind in their continuing war against citrus greening.

Under a March 4 emergency declaration by Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, and with no roadblocks from the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), growers have the approval to spray three new chemical agents on their trees to control the bacteria that causes the highly destructive Huanglongbing (HLB, or greening) disease. The bactericides are streptomycin sulfate (FireWall 50WP by AgroSource, Inc.), oxytetracycline hydrochloride (FireLine 17WP by AgroSource, Inc.), and oxytetracycline calcium complex (Mycoshield by Nufarm Americas, Inc.).

These products, developed and manufactured for use as foliar agents, are new for application by Florida citrus growers, but they aren’t new to U.S. agriculture. Each has been used for many years by pear and apple growers to fight bacterial infections on their trees. Encouraged by some successful field tests of the bactericides on HLBinfected citrus trees, citrus growers are hopeful that these agents will help control greening, too, and enhance the overall tree health of the HLB-infected trees in their groves.

Putnam’s authority to issue the emergency declaration, and permit the use of the previously banned bactericides on citrus trees, falls within the crisis provisions of FIFRA, the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act. It’s the law that established the basic U.S. system of pesticide regulation to protect applicators, consumers, and the environment. With the Florida citrus industry at a crossroads, Putnam issued the declaration in a letter to and in conjunction with the EPA, which continues to review a bactericide exemption petition issued by Putnam’s department on Dec. 4, 2015.

Putnam’s crisis declaration letter to the EPA states that the bactericides will be used specifically to control the bacterium that causes citrus greening disease. The chemicals will be applied to up to 388,534 acres of citrus (grapefruit, lemon, lime, orange, tangelo, tangerine, citrus citron, kumquat, and citrus hybrids). Putnam’s letter also details how the bactericides must be applied for best effect and human safety. Growers who use these products during the crisis period must have copies of the crisis declaration letter in their possession.

In declaring this agricultural emergency and issuing the exemption for use of these bactericides, Putnam and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services have taken a bold step to aid a citrus industry in crisis. It will be very interesting, a year from now, to know how well these chemicals have worked to control the greening disease.

CREDIT

column by CHARLES COUNTER

BIO: Charles Counter started in the agriculture business in 1986. He is the director of field operations for the Haines City Citrus Growers Association, managing more than 7,000 acres of ag land in Florida. Established in 1909, the HCCGA provides for complete grove development and management, is a member of Florida’s Natural, and operates as caretaker and packer of citrus, as well as organic and conventional peaches and Blueberries. To contact Charles, call (863) 557-0510 or email charles@hilltopcitrus.com.

Posted April 22, 2016