What is in this article?:
- High density citrus groves: Way of the future in Florida?
- Slow-release fertilizer
- Removing infestation
• This grove design could also work well with mechanical harvesting.
• Mike Murphy also harvests some fruit with the current Oxbo harvester.
• The concept, which reduces reliance on hand labor, intrigues him.
A DIFFERENT GROVE configuration may be necessary to better deal with greening disease and get ready for the next generation of mechanical harvesters, says Mike Murphy, CEO and executive vice president of Cooperative Producers, Inc.
One tactic to minimize spreading the disease is to remove the infestation, he says.
“What we’re hoping is that by keeping inoculum levels down and growing young trees, we’re turning the tide.”
The company put 140,000 treesin three test project groves for four years. They remove the infestation when it is detected, strengthening trees with micronutrient applications.
“We flag the diseased trees,” Murphy says. “Then we spray a herbicide mixture that gets immediate kill, so the trees don’t have sprouts. Then, we wait two months to replant. That gives time for the herbicide to dissipate.
“We got it down to a .017 percent infestation rate. Our production is going up, and we’re getting more boxes of fruit per acre. Some of that has to do with nutrition and some with the fact that a lot of young trees are coming on.”
Blocks on other parts of the property get variations of that program. Some trees get the so-called Maury Boyd program — named for the citrus grower who developed it-of intensive micronutrient applications.
“We use some similar ingredients to Maury’s program and some different ones. We’re trying to find out which ingredients are effective and which are not needed.
For controlling the psyllid — the tiny insect vector spreading greening disease — Murphy strongly believes in the citrus health management area concept, in which growers within an area agree to spray for it in a coordinated fashion.
“We set up team captains in each region. The minute we see a sign of psyllids, we make a call to everybody and we begin the assault. An aggressive spray program is essential for control of psyllids. In southwest Florida, with its humidity and heat, the psyllid is going to be here,” he says.
“We don’t have the silver bullet for greening. My goal is to suppress the disease until someone can deliver a resistant tree or a material we can use for greening.”