A Million Reasons … and Growing

As November gives way to December and the sprint toward the new year quickens, it is easy to miss notable details in the crush of all the year-end reports, office gatherings, and eggnog. Here’s one milestone that may have gone by unnoticed and may be hard to believe.

A UF/IFAS report released in late November said Tree Defender and other individual protective covers (IPCs) are currently covering at least 1 million trees on about 17,000 acres in Central Florida. That number is now closer to 1.3 million according to Scott Thompson, co-founder of Tree Defender and the company that brought this innovation to the industry.

That’s right: over a million. And while that number may seem like a blip among the estimated 55.8 million trees in Florida, it is over a million trees that are growing up protected from greening and will come into production disease free.

Thanks to our work with UF assistant professor Fernando Alferez since 2018, the use of Tree Defender and IPCs is now becoming a standard practice for growers looking to protect young citrus trees.

Alferez has validated that IPCs — with their tightly-woven mesh construction — keep Asian citrus psyllids off of covered trees, protecting them from citrus greening. In a study, Alferez and his team discovered that IPCs maintain chlorophyll levels in leaves and prevent HLB-induced deficiency of nitrogen and zinc. At the same time, there is a higher concentration of nutrients and other photosynthates. The IPCs also prevented the accumulation of starch, sucrose, and glucose in leaves. Higher brix levels in the fruit produced by these protected trees is another exciting factor.

While the use of IPCs is mainly focused on greening protection and prevention, there are other advantages ranging from increased growth and a faster time to production. 

For example, IPCs offer an additional layer of protection against harsh UV exposure, heat, and other extreme weather conditions. This promotes healthier growth and the potential for a higher yield.

Along with additional protection, IPCs also create a microclimate inside the cover that reduces vapor pressure deficit and allows for a longer more efficient period of active photosynthesis. This produces larger leaves and larger canopies with higher leaf chlorophyll content.

Pest defense, weather protection, healthier leaves, and growth promotion are all reasons that IPCs like Tree Defender are not just one of the latest band aids for the industry, they are conduits to a future for the industry.

Bio: Scott Thompson is co-founder of Tree Defender, Radical Ag-Tech, and Care Planet Technologies. He is a Central Florida native with a background in agribusiness, food manufacturing, and bioscience.

This column is sponsored by Tree Defender, and the opinions expressed herein may not reflect those of CFAN or of its advertisers.

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