In a 2010 report funded by the Florida Department of Citrus, the National Academy of Sciences recommended to the citrus industry that it use a holistic approach to combat Huanglongbing (HLB), known as citrus greening disease.

Fifteen months after implementing the Academy’s recommendation, growers are seeing the benefits of Citrus Health Management Areas.

Citrus Health Management Areas (CHMAs), an initiative led by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) in partnership with the citrus industry, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Plant Industry (FDACS/DPI) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), are designated geographic areas carved out of Florida’s 555,000 acres of citrus, where growers organize and synchronize timing of control sprays and its mode of action to reduce populations of Asian citrus psyllid (ACP), combat the spread of greening disease and reduce psyllid resistance to control compounds. 

Michael Rogers, UF/IFAS entomologist and architect of Florida’s CHMAs said he is encouraged by grower participation and reports of reduced psyllid populations.

“Since the formal CHMA program was initiated in late 2010, grower participation in coordinated psyllid spray programs has increased dramatically,” Rogers said. “To date, there are 34 CHMAs functioning throughout the state encompassing more than 426,000 acres of citrus.”

Rogers added that the goal of these coordinated spray programs is to provide more effective reduction in psyllid populations beyond what a single grower can do alone.

“Cooperative efforts that are effective in lowering psyllid populations may also lead to a reduction in the number of pesticide applications applied each year, thus reducing costs,” Rogers said. “There have already been cases this season where CHMAs were able to delay their next planned psyllid spray by three to four weeks because the control obtained by the previous coordinated spray was very effective.”

This voluntary program is driven by growers who enroll their groves with county Extension agents assigned to an area. These agents recruit one or two growers in each area to serve as a “captain.” Area captains and Extension agents collaborate to organize meetings to encourage participation in CHMAs, collect grower contact information, coordinate with area growers regarding timing and treatment of groves, and maintain the flow of communication. Area captains also serve as a point of contact with UF/IFAS, FDACS and USDA.

John Gose, a production manager for Lykes Brothers in central Highlands County, serves as area captain for groves along State Roads 17/27 where approximately 52 square miles or 7,835 acres have been enrolled in CHMAs, including 1,600 acres of groves owned by Lykes Brothers. Gose said that constant contact between growers and the scientific community, along with vigilant scouting and field surveys, has been key to the success of CHMAs.

“As CHMA captain, I send out notices through the Highlands County Citrus Growers Association as to when sprays are planned and the suggested mode of action,” Gose said. “In our first year, psyllid populations in our groves are not spiking as they have in the past. I’ve heard the same from other growers in our CHMA, as well as other CHMA’s in the state. This is very evident with the inspection results from IFAS, the Division of Plant Industry and USDA.”

Greg Carlton, bureau chief, FDACS/DPI Bureau of Pest Eradication and Control in Winter Haven, said his agency and USDA are supporting the CHMA initiative by training and providing personnel to inspect 6,000 blocks of citrus statewide on a three-week cycle.

“The information collected by inspectors is loaded into USDA’s national database where FDACS/DPI format the data to create graphs and maps showing psyllid populations for publication on the IFAS Web site,” Carlton said. “This information is then used by scientists, Extension, area captains and growers to set thresholds and make application decisions. So far, the program is progressing well.”

Tim Hurner, multi-county Extension citrus agent in Highlands County agrees. “The reduction in Asian citrus psyllid populations is a direct result of CHMAs,” Hurner said. “Before these coordinated efforts, growers were working individually, so if one grower sprayed his grove and his neighbor didn’t, the psyllids would simply pick up and move to the untreated grove. Now, with growers synchronizing sprays and modes of action, psyllids have nowhere to hide.”

For information regarding CHMAs in your area, visit http://www.crec.ifas.ufl.edu/extension/chmas/chma_websites.shtml

The following is a list of UF/IFAS scientists and multi-county Extension agents who can answer questions and provide information regarding HLB, Asian citrus psyllid and CHMAs.

Megan Dewdney, Ph.D., Plant Pathologist Extension Specialist, 863-956-1151, mmdewdney@crec.ifas.ufl.edu; Michael Rogers, Ph.D., Entomologist Extension Specialist, 863-956-1151; MRogers@crec.ifas.ufl.edu; Tim Spann, Ph.D., Horticulture Extension Specialist, 863-956-1151, spann@ufl.edu; Jamie Yates, Coordinator, Canker and Greening Extension Education, 863-956-1151, jdyates@ufl.edu; Lukasz Stelinski, Entomology and Nematology, 863-956-1151, stelinski@ufl.edu.

Ron Brlansky, Ph.D., Plant Pathologist, 863-956-1151, rhby@crec.ifas.ufl.edu; Chris Oswalt, Multi-County Citrus Extension Agent, Polk and Hillsborough Counties, 863-519-8677, wcoswalt@ifas.ufl.edu; Mongi Zekri, Ph.D., Multi-County Citrus Extension Agent, Hendry, Glades, Lee, Charlotte and Collier Counties, 863-674-4092, maz@ifas.ufl.edu; Steve Futch, Ph.D., Multi-County Citrus Extension Agent, DeSoto, Hardee, Manatee and Sarasota Counties, 863-956-1151, shf@crec.ifas.ufl.edu.

Tim Hurner, Multi-County Citrus Extension Agent, Highlands County, 863-402-6540, plowboy@ufl.edu; Gary England, Multi-County Horticulture Extension Agent, Citrus, Hernando, Sumter and Pasco Counties 352-793-2728, gke@ufl.edu; Tim Gaver, Multi-County Citrus Extension Agent, St. Lucie, Martin, Okeechobee and Indian River Counties, 772-462-1660, tgaver.49@ufl.edu.