Editor's Note: This is the Field Notes column, published in the May 15, 2011, issue of Citrus + Vegetable Magazine.
Out of a the limelight, groups of growers and researchers meet and pick each others’ brains about Asian citrus psyllid and citrus greening, also known as huanglongbing or HLB.
The information sharing got its start when some inquisitive researchers wanted to see first-hand the success that citrus grower Maury Boyd and his grove manager, Tim Willis, had in rejuvenating HLB-infected trees with a nutrient cocktail.
It was one of these give-and-take sessions that got Bob Rouse,a citrus horticulturist at the Southwest Florida Research and Education Center, thinking. He has since started field trials at the center that examine different components of the Boyd nutrient cocktail as well as looking at the cocktail in conjunction with severe tree buckhorning. And the results are eye-opening.
The list of attendees at these informal meetings and field tours continues to grow and now even includes some researchers from the Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred. The get-togethers typically involve guided tours of Boyd’s grove and Rouse’s field plots.
Some of the most productive meetings also have involved some barbecue followed by discussing topics for most of the afternoon at the SWFREC auditorium.
These types of give-and-takes can only help in the search for solutions to Asian citrus psyllid and HLB. And getting researchers out of laboratories and into groves with growers who face real-world challenges can only enhance the process.
Sure, research proposals are screened by the Florida Research & Development Foundation, which has about a dozen growers on its board. And the foundation solicits suggestions on its website and has a web forum. But those are limited in how back and forth actually occurs.
In addition, researchers publish peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals or they may present their results at research conferences or Extension meetings. But those are mostly one-way communications.
I’ve always said growers are the original innovators. They can look at something, go back to their shops, tweak designs and come up with pieces of equipment that fit their needs.
The same is true with production systems.
Boyd (no relation) is a prime example of a grower who faced unusually high HLB-infection rates in his groves. He and Willis suspected that hurricanes had weakened the trees, and they lacked the needed nutrition to fight off HLB infection.
So they developed an aggressive tree nutritional program that has rejuvenated the trees and caught the attention of many.
For these meetings to continue to work, there have to be a few ground rules. Leave the egos at the door. Put on your listening cap. Respect others’ opinions. And agree to disagree at times.
If everybody approaches the meetings with an open mind, only good things can continue to come from them.