January 24, 2022
It’s tough to be a citrus grower in Florida right now. In the January All In For Citrus podcast episode, Michael Rogers discusses the challenging environment for growers. Below-average prices and low yields are among the major obstacles.
However, the UF/IFAS citrus researchers and Extension agents continue to work hard on behalf of growers, looking for tools they can use now to stay afloat. Rogers, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Citrus Research and Education Center director, notes several events in February to get important information out to growers. He also discusses the search for two new positions on the team to further help producers.
UF/IFAS citrus horticulturist Fernando Alferez joins the podcast from the Southwest Florida Research and Education Center (SWFREC) to provide an update on individual protective covers, which researchers are testing on young citrus. He and his team just concluded a multi-year trial on the system and saw both an increase in quality and yield. In addition, Alferez details results of some in-season treatments of relatively inexpensive products that are showing less fruit drop in Hamlin groves.
Reducing fruit drop is also something Ute Albrecht, a UF/IFAS plant physiologist at the SWFREC, is seeing in her trunk-injection research. Albrecht joins the podcast episode to share findings from a multi-year study in which a single injection reduced fruit drop dramatically. She talks about the challenges of the delivery system and new technology that may make it a practical option for growers. Albrecht reminds growers that trunk injection is still being studied and not a recommendation from advisors.
December 17, 2021
2021 won’t go down as one of the best years for citrus growers, but there were some wins for the industry. After the holidays, a major event will springboard the industry into the new year.
Michael Rogers, director of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Citrus Research and Education Center, notes that the continuing pandemic and low production are dampening the holiday cheer this year. However, recent research recommendations and the return of events should give the citrus industry reasons to be jolly.
In the December episode of the All In For Citrus podcast, Rogers discusses the gibberellic acid research and recommendations developed by UF/IFAS that can reverse the effects of huanglongbing disease. There has been some misinformation about the use of the product. Rogers clearly outlines gibberellic acid use and its flexibility due to not being a pesticide.
After ringing in the new year, the citrus industry will gather for a major show in January. The Florida Grower Citrus Show is Jan. 26–27 at the Havert L. Fenn Center in Fort Pierce, Florida. The event is a great opportunity for UF/IFAS scientists to communicate their ongoing research. UF/IFAS’ Mark Ritenour and Sandra Guzman join the December podcast episode to talk about the educational lineup at the show, including their presentations, during the two-day event.
November 19, 2021
The important process that gets new citrus varieties in the hands of growers is the main topic of the November episode of the All In For Citrus podcast.
Michael Rogers, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Citrus Research and Education Center (CREC) director, discusses the recent CREC open house where breeders displayed potential new varieties for the industry to see. Rogers says growers get a chance to taste and rate the fruit, which is valuable information for researchers. The open house also included several field tours, including one that Rogers describes as extremely practical that involves techniques growers can use now to keep operations profitable in the midst of HLB disease.
Once UF/IFAS completes the process of creating a new variety for release to the public, several things need to happen next that involve partnerships. That’s where Peter Chaires, executive director of New Varieties Development & Management Corp. (NVDMC), and John Beuttenmuller, executive director of Florida Foundation Seed Producers, Inc. enter the equation.
The non-profit Florida Foundation Seed Producers is a direct support organization that bridges the gap between UF/IFAS and growers. NVDMC, also a non-profit, files patents on the new products and works with nurseries and partner companies for fresh fruit varieties.
Chaires says NVDMC brings new varieties to commercialization. He explains how the process has changed over the years for the better, streamlining the development chain and increasing efficiency.
The patents that NVDMC file on new varieties provide a steady income for future development. Beuttenmuller said 70% of the royalties from those patents are returned to the UF/IFAS citrus breeding program.
For the full story, listen to the November All In For Citrus podcast here.
September 17, 2021
September All In For Citrus Podcast Has Big HLB News
The September episode of the All In For Citrus podcast is a special edition focused on one subject. University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) researchers have identified a breakthrough treatment for huanglongbing (HLB) that greatly reduces the effects of the disease.
Michael Rogers, director of the Citrus Research and Education Center, said a lot of UF/IFAS research has focused on reducing citrus tree stress. While running a trial, citrus researchers tested several products on trees to see if they could reduce the oxidative stress that is caused by several diseases, including HLB. Rogers said they quickly noticed that gibberellic acid (GA) was standing out among the products trialed. Gibberellic acid is a common plant growth regulator in the industry.
After running tests with GA sprays on Valencia oranges, Rogers said the research team is confident it has identified a major tool for growers that can keep them profitable amidst the disease.
“Some things may not be cost-effective in our research, and we may not go down that route,” Rogers said. “In the case of this work with gibberellic acid, it’s a tremendous benefit for such a little cost.”
Rogers warned growers though that UF/IFAS researchers have only tested GA on Valencia oranges, and there are specific guidelines growers must follow to avoid a negative effect. He also cautioned that this is another tool in the toolbox to help growers manage HLB disease, albeit a very effective one.
Tripti Vashisth, one of the researchers working on the trial, has seen an incredible dollar increase per acre in the test plot. She will be leading a virtual talk on Tuesday, Sept. 21 about GA guidelines. Rogers said the presentation will be recorded. Growers can register for the meeting and find more information at the UF/IFAS Citrus Research website.
Listen to the September All In For Citrus podcast here.
July 23, 2021
A pest problem in citrus under protective screen (CUPS), heat stress guidance, and Citrus Expo news headline the July episode of the All In For Citrus podcast.
Citrus Research and Education Center Director Michael Rogers begins the episode with an overview of the seminars at this year’s Citrus Expo. He said his University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) citrus team will be presenting a full lineup of sessions on Wednesday, Aug. 18. Talks will fall under three sections — pathology, entomology and horticulture. While HLB research will be covered, Rogers said there is a lot more that will be addressed in all aspects of production. He hopes attendees will be able to walk away from the sessions this year with actionable tools that can help them stay productive.
Next up, UF/IFAS entomologist Lauren Diepenbrock talks about an emerging pest in CUPS production systems. Chilli thrips are so small that they can fit through most screens. She said there are some unanswered questions about the situation, including where the pest pupates and why it isn’t an issue in traditional production. Research has already begun, and Diepenbrock hopes to have some answers soon for growers who have invested in the high-cost system for fresh fruit production.
Florida growers face threats from hot temperatures during the summer months. UF/IFAS Extension agent Amir Rezazadeh details how heat combined with little water can cause major damage to both trees and humans. He shares the key signs to keep an eye out for in groves when it comes to plants and workers.
Wrapping up the episode is UF/IFAS Extension Program Manager Jamie Burrow. She brings the listeners back to the topic of Citrus Expo, where the UF/IFAS trade show booth will look a little different this year. The open space will feature hands-on, digital and physical information for growers. The booth will be more interactive this year, so growers can take home things they can use in the grove, along with the newly updated Citrus Production Guide.
Listen to the July episode of the All In For Citrus podcast.
June 18, 2021
This month’s All In for Citrus Podcast details the results and benefits growers are getting from the citrus nutrition box program.
Before hearing from the coordinators of the program, Citrus Research and Education Center Director Michael Rogers shares updates on key events coming up this summer for the industry. The first is the Citrus, Vegetable and Specialty Crop Expo in North Fort Myers, Florida, on Aug. 18–19. Rogers says planning is quickly progressing for 18 citrus talks in the seminar program. His team is excited to be back in-person and looks forward to connecting with growers on the trade show floor.
Soon after the Citrus Expo is the 60th anniversary of Citrus Packinghouse Day on Aug. 26. It will also be returning to in-person after a virtual-style shift last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rogers says the event is loaded with post-harvest research information and is also a great opportunity to socialize with fellow industry members.
While in-person events are reemerging, Rogers says some of the online information will not be going away. He says the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) citrus team saw great response to digital efforts and will continue to produce online content that growers can use on a daily basis. All of that information can be found on the UF/IFAS Citrus Research website.
UF/IFAS Horticultural Sciences and Citrus Extension Specialist Tripti Vashisth and Extension Program Manager Jamie Burrow have worked hard to coordinate the nutrition box program. It was one of the few services that continued through the pandemic.
“This first year, so through the pandemic, we had over 70 participants,” Burrow says. “This year, as we start year two, we have over 90 different locations that are participating in the program.”
Vashisth believes the customized information specific to a grower’s environment is what makes the program popular. “We are taking into account all of the factors, and we put a lot of time into this,” she says. “I think growers are appreciating that, and they see the value and that the trees do respond when you take care of their nutritional needs.”
May 19, 2021
It takes strong partnerships between the citrus industry and researchers to make advancements toward issues facing growers. This month’s All In For Citrus podcast details the importance of those partnerships, highlighting one special relationship that has been critical to variety development.
University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Citrus Research and Education Center Director Michael Rogers begins the podcast discussing collaboration between growers and researchers. “This is something that we are going to be talking about more in the future,” Rogers said. “You could even say that these collaborations are part of our DNA. They are why we are here.”
As more in-person events are scheduled coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rogers said it has been refreshing to be able to talk with growers again. Travel and visitor restrictions have eased, and he believes UF/IFAS will start having in-person meetings soon.
Florida’s revised budget announcement was also good news for the citrus team. Rogers said there were no cuts to their system; a small increase was actually seen. He said this will allow UF/IFAS to fill some vacant positions that were put on hold. Most important among these positions is a citrus plant improvement horticulturist. The position will work closely with growers on large-scale field trials. Zoom meeting invitations were sent to growers to participate in the hiring process.
UF/IFAS citrus breeder and geneticist Fred Gmitter and grower Tom Hammond are a real-world example of the researcher/grower relationship. Gmitter said what this partnership has allowed him to experiment with is unprecedented. Hammond dedicates 16 acres of land to Gmitter’s variety trials and shoulders most of the cost. Gmitter said the arrangement is especially unique because the block does not produce any marketable fruit, and Hammond is not able to recoup any of his costs.
Hammond believes that isn’t the point. “What I learned very quickly was that you can take varieties from around the world … and you can bring them over here to Florida and they don’t necessarily do well,” he said. “If we were going to be successful in developing new cultivars … it was going to be super important that some of this stuff was homegrown.”
April 23, 2021
A whole-systems approach to one University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) research project is the focus of the April All in For Citrus podcast.
Citrus Research and Education Center Director Michael Rogers said the project is a good example of citrus researchers taking a more comprehensive look at problems in the industry. “We’re starting to put all the pieces together and develop these integrated approaches — really focusing on what can growers do now,” he said.
The project, “Establishing Healthy Citrus Plantings in the Face of Persistent HLB Pressure,” is led by Lauren Diepenbrock. She says the team simply refers to it as the young citrus project. The objective is to update current recommendations for new plantings in Florida because they are out of date and need to consider HLB disease. “Our goal is to come up with some guidelines to help growers establish new plantings … using some of the tools that growers are already implementing that we have zero guidelines on,” Diepenbrock said.
Those tools are reflective mulch, individual protective covers and kaolin clay. Megan Dewdney and Evan Johnson are looking at pathology both above ground and below ground, respectively. Davie Kadyampakeni is tackling nutrition and irrigation in the trial, and Christopher Vincent is looking at overall tree growth. After one year of the research project, some interesting results are already emerging.
Diepenbrock said it’s a much-needed project that was spurred by grower questions. “We worked with them to see where their issues were, what their concerns were, what kind of other problems they had or noticed so we could keep an eye out for them,” she said. “It may be an issue that we can maybe solve in some manner. We’re trying to think of these things that are going to impact growers. They need to get a return on their investment to make it worth their time and money.”
Unrelated to the project, Rogers noted that the presentation videos from the Florida Citrus Growers’ Institute are now available online. He also reminded the industry to follow along with UF/IFAS on social media for National OJ Day on May 4. He said UF/IFAS will be interacting through various channels to promote the topic and industry. Finally, he urged growers to take advantage of the Tip of The Week segment on CitrusIndustry.com. The series has vital information for growers in an ever-changing environment.