Researchers find new focus to attack citrus greening

02/06/2014 02:22:00 PM
Tom Burfield

For example, tanks and other equipment are needed for the water treatment program.

“We went through several different types and brands until we figured out some that could handle these types of acids.”

The company only has been treating its water slightly more than a year, but good results already are showing up.

“The trees are looking better where we’re doing it than where we’re not doing it" in terms of overall health, leaf size, color and response to greening, he says.

No one thinks water treatment is a cure for greening, Newlin says. “But we have learned that if we can reduce the stresses to the tree, it at least can survive better.”

There is an extra cost involved, but Newlin says the results are well worth it.

“Now that our cost of caretaking is quite a bit higher, to spend an extra $50 to $150 an acre in terms of water remediation or spoon-feeding nutrients seems to be a prudent thing to do to make trees healthier relative to greening,” he says.

If you’re just treating the water, the cost might be in the $50-$70 range. If you also spoon feed the nutrients, the cost will be in the $150-plus range, depending on how much fertilizer you use.

“It’s too early to say it’s reversing anything at this point, but it’s certainly taking some of the stress off the tree,” Newlin says.

Newlin is optimistic about the future of these programs.

“The good news is a lot of smart growers and vendors are starting to do this,” he says, “so we’re coming up with some pretty ingenious ways to make it easier and more cost effective.”

 

Good practices

The Florida citrus industry has implemented good horticultural management practices for maintaining root health through proper water, nutrition and fighting the psyllid vector Graham says.

“We emphasize practices that promote root system function of HLB-affected trees to maintain root density, yields and fruit quality,” he says.

So far though, research has not determined whether root loss due to HLB is reversible.

The future of the citrus industry in Florida depends on replanting grove sites with the best soil selecting a rootstock adapted for the soil type to ensure that the root system sustains uptake of adequate water and nutrients, Graham says.

“It is not recommended to grow citrus on marginal soil anymore,” he says.


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