Pathways to the Future of Citrus

Florida citrus growers have experienced more than their fair share of challenges in the past 15 years as HLB has ravaged groves, drastically reducing the state’s citrus yields year after year. While some growers have thrown in the towel and moved on to other ventures, many of our state’s grove operators and those of us at Tree Defender stand firm in the belief that the industry will not only recover but also thrive in the future.

The CRAFT Foundation has been working to bolster Florida’s citrus industry with the creation of a system that provides funding for growers to design and execute experimental procedures to demonstrate effective techniques for HLB mitigation. Data collected by growers are provided to the USDA for analysis. Three cycles have been successfully implemented, with a fourth tentatively set to start taking applications from prospective participants in early October. To learn how you can benefit from this cooperative research project, visit craftfdn.org

Ongoing research continues to feed growers’ optimism, as every year more is learned about the psyllids that spread HLB and how growers can best preserve trees from damage. Brazilian researchers with Fundecitrus have found that an orange tree is most susceptible to HLB infection during the first four of its six stages of shoot development. During this time, rapid shoot growth and leaf expansion leave the tender new tissue vulnerable to psyllid damage and infection with HLB.

Therefore, protecting young trees becomes a primary goal for growers to guard against HLB. This can be accomplished by using Tree Defender’s individual protective covers to create a physical barrier that is highly effective at preventing psyllids from accessing the new growth. 

Finally, various options are available to help growers finance solutions to the challenges they’re facing. One is the USDA’s Conservation Innovation Grants On-Farm Innovation Trial Program available through their Natural Resources Conservation Service. This program provides funding for agricultural producers to adopt innovative conservation approaches. Growers can learn more at grants.gov

Through the perseverance that Florida growers are known for, the citrus industry can and will rebuild.

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 thetreedefender.com

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