The best defense is a good offense — with The Tree Defender

Article sponsored by Southern Citrus Nurseries, 5600 Lake Trask Road, Dundee, FL 33838
863-439-3694 •

Southern Citrus Nurseries of Dundee develops tree cover for young citrus trees

THOMAS “TOMMY” THAYER, JR., AND SCOTT “SCOTTY” THOMPSON, the creators of The Tree Defender, have an analogy they like to share when they talk about their innovative new protection system for freshly planted citrus trees.

“It’s like when you first send a child off to school,” Thompson says. “If you send the child out healthy and prepared, there’s less likelihood of a poor start and a greater chance he or she will do better in school later on.”

With necessity being the mother of invention, that was that major original idea behind development of The Tree Defender: Give newly planted trees protection from the start against the insect that causes the crippling citrus greening (HLB) disease, keep them healthier longer, and give them a fighting chance to mature into high-yielding fruit producers.


The Tree Defender by Southern Citrus Nurseries, LLC, of Dundee, is a pentagram- or kite-shaped screening product that completely covers a young citrus tree. Its primary purpose is to protect trees from the effects of harmful insects, frost, wind, hail, and many other threats during the first part of a tree’s life.

“The longer a newly planted tree can remain HLB-free, the better the chances are that the tree will make it to bearing age and begin to provide income for the grower,” says a report by the University of Florida/IFAS Extension.

The Tree Defender is made from a clear, flexible, and lightweight polyvinyl chloride (PVC) material, supported by a long center stake, and secured by a tie wrap (cable tie) that goes around the screening, the stake, and tree trunk near ground level.

Thayer says the primary material for The Tree Defender is the standard and industry-approved 50-mesh polyvinyl screening used in plant nurseries and greenhouses. The fine weave of the screen provides protection against insects — including the Asian citrus psyllid, which causes the deadly bacterial disease called citrus greening (Huanglongbing, or HLB) — yet the screen is permeable enough to allow for sunlight, air flow, and the application of chemical sprays.

Thayer is a second-generation Florida citrus grower and nurseryman. Thompson is a third-generation citrus grower. Along with growers all over the state, both have been affected directly by the devastating impact of the citrus greening disease. While researchers and government agencies worked on other fronts to find solutions to greening, Thayer and Thompson decided to pool together their talents, knowledge, experience, and resources with the goal of developing a practical and fairly simple defense against the psyllid.

“We saw people struggling and felt the need to do something to help turn the tide,” Thayer says.

But now, Thompson adds, “People who’ve seen and tested our product feel like they have the confidence to replant for a couple of more years … We like to say that this was developed by growers for growers.”

Thompson says he “started playing with this (The Tree Defender idea) a few years ago, with some different designs.”

“It seemed like a pretty simple thing,” he says. Though simple in concept — basically a protective mesh bag covering for young citrus trees — the screening had to be put to the test. “We were our own worst critics; we picked it apart,” Thompson says. “We wanted to be confident that we had a good and solid product.”

Thompson says that he and Thayer have been able to positively answer and address all the questions and concerns that have come up about The Tree Defender. Some of the concerns were concerns of their own; others came from growers throughout Florida. The Tree Defender has a pentagram design and tapered shape to withstand Florida’s sometimes-harsh winds. “It’s designed to hold up against high-wind events, like tropical storms and the winds from a cold front. It turns (around the tree) like a wind vane in high winds.” he says. “We had a couple of wind events during some of our testing, and when we went out to check (on the test products), we couldn’t even tell that a storm had been beating down on them.”

In addition, Thompson and Thayer say The Tree Defender doesn’t block the sunlight, nibbling animals — like deer in some groves — don’t seem to bother it, and nutritional and other sprays get through the mesh without a problem. In fact, Thayer says, the need to spray trees covered by The Tree Defender seems to be reduced, providing a source of savings for growers — and addressing environmental concerns about the possible overuse of neonicotinoid insecticides on citrus trees.

Primarily, The Tree Defender has been designed to extend the economic viability of citrus trees, and grower Jamie Shinn offers this testimonial: “I have had The Tree Defenders on some of my resets for about a year now. They definitely are not slowing the tree down. They are perfect for scattered resets.”

The Tree Defender, with its patent-pending design, is in its first full commercial production run, and already the product has sold out. The cost of The Tree Defender is approximately what a grower would spend on a tree’s maintenance in a typical year.

For details about product orders, availability, and cost, call Southern Citrus Nurseries in Dundee at 863-439-3694.

Article sponsored by Southern Citrus Nurseries, 5600 Lake Trask Road, Dundee, FL 33838
863-439-3694 •


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