Citrus greening disease, also known as HLB, has impacted more than 80 percent of Florida’s citrus trees, according to UF/IFAS research. It has been present in Florida groves since 2005. With such a challenge before them, growers are asking whether it is a wise financial investment to plant new trees or reset groves. And, it’s a worthy question. Here are a few examples of why it’s worth consideration.
The University of Florida and Tropicana have teamed up to test new citrus varieties for greening tolerance and better-tasting juice. UF/IFAS clarifies that a tree variety with greater “tolerance” is one that can (or eventually will still) be infected but has greater potential to produce enough fruit for a profit. “This trial is providing strong evidence that the combination of improved scion genetics, improved rootstock genetics, and optimized nutrition programs is the ticket for the immediate future,” says Jude Grosser, a UF/IFAS professor of horticultural sciences. He says a combination of a UF sweet orange on UFR-4 root stock looks “exceptional” for yield and tree health.
Another example of a solution for the citrus industry is called the Tree Defender. It is a breathable screen created by two local citrus growers to protect young trees from psyllids and greening in its first two years of growth. Dr. James Graham, a professor of Soil Microbiology at the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center (CREC), used an economic model to calculate the yield and profit advantage for protecting young trees from psyllid infection for the first two growing seasons, and concluded that Valencia trees planted at 250 per acre protected by Tree Defender returned a profit of more than $3,000 per acre.
The CUPS (Citrus Under Protective Screens) program is another endeavor giving citrus growers cause to consider planting new or more resets for their agribusinesses. The benefits of such a system, according to the Dundee Citrus Growers Association (the founder of the CUPS program), is that it provides an environment for sustainable growing; protects natural resources; requires less water, pesticides and fertilizers; protects against HLB and other diseases; has faster growth and higher quality yields; and it’s a locally-grown solution for local growers.
Before making the important decision to plant new citrus trees or reset groves— which undoubtedly will require a financial investment or a lending solution— the team at AgAmerica Lending is here to help you make an informed decision to keep your agriculture operation growing with confidence.
This column is sponsored by AgAmerica Lending, and the opinions expressed herein may not reflect those of CFAN or of its advertisers.