John Baxter

HLB Effects on Citrus Tree Root Mass

It’s a somewhat obvious fact of biology and botany: The healthier a plant is below the ground, the healthier it tends to be above the ground. In the case of a fruit-bearing plant or tree — like a Florida citrus tree — the healthier its fruit tends to be. A big and dense root system will give rise to and support a large plant, providing anchorage in the soil; absorbing water, nutrients, and air from that soil; and, like a lifeline, forcing those elements up to the plant leaves so food-generating photosynthesis can take place with energy from the sun.
In the case of citrus alone, countless hours and dollars have gone into research about what makes a healthy tree and how to boost and protect a citrus tree’s roots during natural development, from infancy through maturity. Research and grower experience have shown us something as vital as a citrus tree’s root system has many natural enemies — poor soil nutrition, too little or too much water, and disease and insects both in the soil and on the tree.
In recent years, the key and critical focus of Florida agricultural research has been on HLB, the citrus greening disease, and ways to stop it to save the Sunshine State’s important citrus industry. In HLB, citrus trees have two enemies — the huanglongbing disease and the Asian citrus psyllid that spreads it. Research has shown that HLB, a bacterial disease, is particularly devastating to a citrus tree’s root system, causing premature fibrous root loss, infecting new root flush, and compromising the tree’s leaves, canopy, and fruit.
In his April 2014 report, “Understanding Citrus Root Mass Issues,” Evan G. Johnson with the Citrus Growers’ Institute wrote that “Roots are an HLB reservoir.”
Aided by millions of dollars in government funding, researchers are working tirelessly to find a way to put the brakes on citrus greening. Using that research, plant nutrient producers are developing new products and improving time-tested ones to help keep citrus trees — from roots to canopy — healthier, less susceptible to stresses, and more productive for longer periods.
The Florida Division team for Helena Agri-Enterprises, Inc., with its expertise, products, and leading-edge agricultural services, is an ally in the fight for Florida’s vital citrus industry. Growers needing support can reach us at (813) 333-3182.
This column is sponsored by Helena Agri-Enterprises, Inc., and the opinions expressed herein may not reflect those of CFAN or its advertisers.
BIO: John Baxter is the Florida Division Manager of Helena Agri-Enterprises, Inc.. He has proudly served Florida growers at Helena for 25 years, and he also currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Florida Fertilizer & Agrichemical Association. For more information about Helena products or services, or to contact a member of the Florida team, call (813) 626-5121.

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