Vicky BoydThe immature oranges at the top came from a tree with citrus greening. The fruit at the bottom was from a healthy tree.Production costs for Florida citrus growers are the highest in history and continue to climb as they battle citrus greening and other diseases.
The only thing that's saved growers the past few years are higher fruit prices, according to a recent presentation by University of Florida agricultural economist Ron Muraro at the International Citrus & Beverage Conference in Clearwater, Fla.
“We are doing a good job managing (the diseases); however, it is expensive and cuts into a grower’s bottom line," Mike Sparks, executive vice president and chief executive officer of Lakeland-based Florida Citrus Mutual said in a news release.
Statewide, growers spent an average of $1,700 per acre on disease management, irrigation, fertilizer and tree replanting, according to Muraro's presentation.
In some areas, the cost is as high as $2,100 per acre.
That compares to $771 per acre just eight years ago.
During the 2002-03 production season, pesticide applications and nutrients comprised 17.7 percent and 18.1 percent, respectively, of overall production costs.
During 2010-11, pesticide applications accounted for 23.3 percent and nutrients for 22.4 percent of production costs for growers who did not adopt an intensive tree nutrient program.
For those growers who chose to use something like the Boyd cocktail—an intensive foliar nutrient program—pesticide sprays were 21.4 percent of production costs and nutrients accounted for 36.3 percent.
On the flip side, growers who didn't use an intensive nutrient program spent an average of $274 per acre, or 17.2 percent, on tree removal and replanting.
Growers who spent more on nutrients spent less on tree removal and replanting—$180.25 per acre, or 10.6 percent.
Although growers are spending more all the way around, the largest single factor driving costs is managing exotic diseases such as citrus canker and citrus greening, although known as huanglongbing, according to Muraro's presentation.
You can view the entire presentation at http://conference.ifas.ufl.edu.