FLORIDA CITRUS GROWERS are in dire need of new orange trees, and two new early UF/IFAS-created Valencia orange varieties have the interest of nurseries and growers. Citrus greening, or HLB, has infected an estimated 80 percent of citrus trees in Florida groves, according to a survey conducted by UF/IFAS in April, and replacing dead or dying trees with resets has been one of few ways that growers are working to maintain production in light of the HLB disease.
The recently released Valencia varieties have a few advantages over other oranges. For one, they are ready for picking in December, which is approximately three months earlier than other Valencias. The early harvest schedule puts them in competition with Hamlin oranges, and the two new Valencia varieties offer advantages over the existing Hamlin variety oranges as well. While the new Valencia oranges are not resistant to HLB — such a tree would be an answer to the prayers of the entire citrus industry — faculty member and professor at the Lake Alfred UF/IFAS facility Dr. Jude Grosser, maintained that Valencias with citrus greening are dropping less fruit than Hamlin trees this season.
Furthermore, Valencia oranges are a superior fruit to Hamlin oranges; they have a better color and a better taste. Currently, Hamlin orange juice must be blended with Valencia orange juice to create a quality juice. Grosser maintained that growers are essentially upgrading as they replace HLB-affected trees while holding out for a cure or effective treatment to citrus greening. It is expected the two new Valencia varieties will be available to growers in the spring of 2017.
Griffin Fertilizer is committed to helping both growers and ranchers make sound agronomic and economic decisions in order to maximize the health of their grove and pasture. As a full-service custom dry and liquid fertilizer blender and crop protection product distributor, we will continue our mission to further advance Florida agriculture.
column by MIKE ROBERTS
BIO: Mike Roberts is the division manager of the Frostproof, Fla.-based Griffin Fertilizer Co. Roberts joined the company in November 2011. He has spent the majority of his career in the fertilizer/ag chem industry. Roberts earned a bachelor of science degree in citrus production from Florida Southern College in Lakeland. He is currently the vice chairman of the Florida Fertilizer & Agrichemical Association. For more information, visit griffinfertilizer.com.