Though modest, Florida’s citrus production is recovering from a hurricane and a devastating disease. Growers will meet next week for the 2020 Florida Citrus Show to learn more about crop management to maintain current groves and/or restore groves on land that had gone fallow in what has come to be known as “The HLB-era.”
University of Florida citrus horticulturalist Rhuanito “Johnny” Ferrarezi said citrus growers lost fruit and trees in Hurricane Irma in 2017, and to huanglongbing, or HLB, a disease that has for 10 years reduced citrus production to 10 percent of what it was in its heyday. But within the last months, growers have been filling fallow fields with new young trees that show tolerance to HLB.
“Growers are planting new trees, and there is hope again due to potentially more tolerant varieties from plant breeders and enhanced horticultural methods to produce fruit on trees infected with HLB,” said Ferrarezi.
The 2020 Florida Citrus Show begins Tuesday, Jan. 22, at 8 a.m., until 7 p.m., and continues Jan. 23, from 8:40 a.m., until 3 p.m. The show will take place at the Havert L. Fenn Center, 2000 Virginia Ave., Fort Pierce, Florida.
Ferrarezi said more than 20 University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Scientists and Extension agents; six U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers; and six citrus and agricultural industry representatives will present educational sessions. Plant breeders who represent UF/IFAS and the USDA U.S. Horticultural Research Laboratory will display new citrus varieties for public evaluation and tasting throughout the entire trade show. In addition, more than 90 industry supply and service vendors will manage information booths for attendees to visit.
Attendees who hold a valid certified pesticide license with the Florida Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services may earn up to nine Certified Educational Units, or CEU’s. There will also be Certified Crop Advisor CEU’s available, said Ed Skvarch, director for the UF/IFAS St. Lucie Cooperative Extension.
Growers who hold licenses with the Florida Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services may earn up to nine Certified Educational Units for and Certified Crop Advisor credentials, said Ed Skvarch, director for the UF/IFAS St. Lucie Cooperative Extension.
Ronald D. Cave, director for the UF/IFAS Indian River Research and Education Center, will welcome attendees to the event. Joining Cave for opening remarks will be Pat Schirard and Doug Bournique, president and executive vice president, respectively, of the Indian River Citrus League, an industry organization founded in 1931 that serves citrus producers.
“For about 10 years, our scientists have sought solutions to manage HLB for the growers we serve,” said Cave. “This year, their work to develop management practices to produce fruit on infected trees is delivering valuable tools and knowledge to the industry.”
Ferrarezi said he organized educational sessions that will feature scientists who conduct current research for citrus production. The researchers will present results and recommendations on topics such as the university’s rootstock breeding program, precision irrigation and nutrition for trees affected by HLB, to fungal sprays and bactericides that fight the plant pathogen that carries HLB. Attendees may access the show’s full agenda at the following website: https://www.citrusshow.com/2020-florida-citrus-show-agenda/
“This year’s show will feature ongoing efforts on scion and rootstock improvement and new irrigation and nutrition practices that support trees with a disease,” said Ferrarezi. “We now know that infected trees require smaller amounts of water and nutrients at more frequent times.”
According to the USDA’s first crop forecast for 2020, grapefruit production will increase 10 or 20 percent more than last fall’s production. Orange production will increase by about 40 percent over last year. Overall, the production of all of Florida’s citrus varieties was up more than 45 percent over the previous year, but Hurricane Irma struck that same year.
Ferrarezi said annual attendance at the Citrus Show demonstrates the commitment growers have to citrus production. UF/IFAS scientists remain steadfast in their efforts to support and increase the highly nutritious food crop that also supports employment, said Cave.
“We are seeing a more positive outlook from the growers, statistics, and research results,” said Ferrarezi. “Citrus is a part of Florida’s heritage, and the support to continue with our signature crop is overwhelming.”