Mike Roberts

Citrus Is Hitting Heavy in the Fight Against Citrus Greening

Citrus has a long history in The Sunshine State, with Spanish explorers planting the first citrus trees in Florida in the 1500s. Early Florida citrus growers started a deep heritage, opening the fruit stands and stores that sold fresh fruit, orange juice, orange preserves and other citrus goods that were the precursors to today’s agritourism ventures that continue to expand agriculture’s horizon. 

However, citrus greening has left the Florida citrus industry fighting to uphold the legacy of Florida citrus, but the industry is not backing down. Below are some recent developments that show Florida citrus is in it to win it.

New Bactericide Shows Promise

Research out of the University of Central Florida indicates that the bactericide zinkicide shows promise in fighting citrus greening.  The University of Central Florida has been conducting research and trials into the new bactericide, and the results thus far have been good. 

At the Florida Citrus Mutual annual conference in Bonita Springs, University of Central Florida researcher Swadeshmukul Santra shared that the results “look very promising.” Bactericides attack the bacteria that cause citrus greening in the vascular tissues of citrus trees. Zinkicide is a nano zinc oxide that was developed specifically to fight citrus greening. Santra also shared that a “potential registrant” is looking into registering zinkicide with the EPA for use on citrus in Florida. 

Automation Could Help Deliver Bactericides

Researchers are working on ways to make bactericides more effective in the field, such as through creating an automated delivery system that injects citrus trees with bactericides directly into their vascular tissues. 

When growers experienced less success with bactericides than scientists saw in the lab, it was hypothesized that the reasoning behind it stemmed from how hard it is to get materials like bactericides into a citrus trees’ phloem. 

A multi-organization team is developing an automated system consisting of a robotic arm and piercing device that could deliver bactericides into a citrus tree’s phloem. Researchers hope a prototype could begin field trials by the end of this year. 

Both developments mean that the citrus industry is still very much in the fight against citrus greening.

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

BIO: Mike Roberts is the Vice President 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/agchem industry. Roberts earned a Bachelor of Science degree in citrus production from Florida Southern College in Lakeland. For more information, visit griffinfertilizer.com

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