Citrus growers band together for area-wide psyllid control

10/07/2011 11:34:00 AM
Vicky Boyd

The CHMA focuses on dormant spraying, when trees aren’t growing and the psyllid population is unable to reproduce.

“Dormant sprays are quite inexpensive,” he says, and give growers “more bang for their buck.”

Growers are “ecstatic,” Stansly says about the resulting in “a general decrease in the [psyllid] population.”

IFAS Extension agent Chris Oswalt has seen mixed results among the 10 CHMAs in Polk and Hillsboro counties.

“Some of the CHMAs are more active than others,” he says.

Generally, once a CHMA is established, participation increases over time as the word spreads and more growers decide to get involved.

But getting a group of growers to agree on the details of a spray can be a challenge. “It’s difficult to coordinate,” Oswalt says, because growers have varied production schedules and different activities in their groves at different times.

Oswalt is hopeful that, even if just a portion of an area is sprayed, other growers will see the benefits and join the program.

Slow start

CHMAs haven’t really caught on yet among growers in the area served by the St. Lucie County Extension Office in Fort Pierce, says Tim Gaver, University of Florida citrus Extension agent.

“They just haven’t lent their blessings to the CHMA process,” he says.

That’s because some growers say they think CHMAs cause conflict with their fresh fruit harvesting operations, Gaver says.

“It messes up the planning if you get an order and need to pick 10,000 boxes of fruit, and you’ve sprayed everything and you can’t harvest,” he says.

Growers who produce citrus for processing have a more flexible spraying schedule, Gaver says.

Growers in a few areas have been conducting the CHMA function for a couple years, and Gaver hopes to have a CHMA started soon.

At the Indian River Citrus League in Vero Beach, Doug Bournique, executive vice president, attributes the lack of interest to the fact that about 80 percent of the area’s citrus goes to export.

“It’s a different world here than it is anywhere else,” he says.

Growers may perceive that export buyers fear the spraying would further add to already unrealistic maximum residue levels set by some European countries, Rogers says.

Nonetheless, “We still have growers who are working together when they can to knock the population of the psyllid down,” Bournique says, adding that the league passes along information about CHMAs to its members.

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