New Year, New Hope

January is the time of the year when football abounds, New Year’s resolutions ignite before fading to a fizzle, and citrus season reaches its peak.

The December 2023 USDA Citrus Forecast remained unchanged from the October report, which predicted 20.5 million boxes. If this holds true, according to the forecast, this would be 30 percent more than last season’s final production. That’s some good news.

There may be more good news on the way as research on the many benefits of Tree Defender IPCs continues.

While we often detail the success rates of our IPCs against the Asian citrus psyllid, it’s worth noting that may not be the only pest our screens are working against.

The sting nematode is one of the most destructive plant-parasitic nematodes to a wide range of plants including turfgrasses, ornamentals, forages, vegetables, agronomic crops, and, most importantly to us, trees. The sting nematode causes damage that limits the ability of roots to take up water and nutrients from the soil, which causes plants to become stunted, wilt, and — with severe infestation — die.

Because of HLB and the subsequent widespread replanting of citrus groves into the sandy Florida soil, the sting nematode is thriving, particularly in young-growth groves. While field trials supported by the Citrus Research and Development Foundation showed that the sting nematode can be suppressed with nematicides — the increase in harvested fruit may not cover the cost of the treatment.

There is another field trial, headed up by University of Florida researcher Dr. Larry Duncan, to see how young trees would respond to sting nematode management if HLB were delayed.

That’s where Tree Defender comes in. We know a thing or two about HLB protection. It is somewhat obvious by now that IPCs like Tree Defender not only prevent HLB in young trees, but they also promote growth and longer-term health. IPCs mass and tree size, root mass and harvested fruit quality for more than 18 months after their removal. In addition to protecting the tree, the patented construction of Tree Defender also creates a microclimate inside the cover.

This study evaluates the responses of IPC-covered and uncovered trees to sting nematodes in plots being treated or not treated with nematicides.

If this study — which is scheduled to wrap up later this year — definitively shows that IPC-covered trees are able to better fight off the sting nematode, it would confirm that Tree Defenders protect a tree not only above ground but also underneath as well, proving their worth as part of integrated pest management.

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

Bio: Tommy Thayer is the co-owner of Tree Defender and owner of Southern Citrus Nurseries, which has been in business since the 1970s. Both companies are based in Dundee, Florida. As a native Floridian, he is a fifth-generation citrus grower who graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Science degree in Food Resource Economics. For more information, visit

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