Unprofitable Plantings: The Affects of Citrus Greening
Economists are concerned about the financial health of low-density citrus growers in Florida, due to citrus greening. One of their main concerns is that the average grower is not making a profit, and that small growers are exiting the industry faster than larger growers. UF/IFAS Economist, Ariel Singerman, said they conducted a survey of different tree densities:145 trees to the acre, 220 trees to the acre, and 303 trees to the acre. “We considered different scenarios for yield: low and high, and different scenarios for prices: low and high. And basically what we found is that you don’t make any money when you have 145 trees to the acre and you have a low-yield scenario.” This is what the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service reports is the average in Florida groves.
Singerman explained that “You need to have at least 15% over the average yield, and even then you have a modest return.” Even at 220 and 303 trees per acre, it takes a while for growers to break even on their investments. “Even the best scenario takes about 10 years to break even”. The economist acknowledges that many growers are uncertain they can get 10 years of production out a tree in the face of HLB (greening). Economist Tom Spreen, UF/IFAS professor emeritus, agreed with Singerman that growers can’t be profitable planting 145 trees per acre. He said growers likely need to plant more than 200 trees to the acre to be profitable.
Florida citrus growers, on average, are now losing money. Singerman stated that if you take the average yield for the state and the average price of citrus, the grower is not making money currently and has not been making money for the past few seasons. Small growers are leaving the citrus business faster than their larger counterparts. Singerman added that the whole HLB (greening) situation has put more stress on small growers who cannot face the larger costs that a grove now demands.
UF/IFAS Extension Service plays a large part in the aiding of information and services for Florida citrus growers. There will be a UF/IFAS Small Farms Academy on December 13th, 2017 to discuss “Cold Tolerant Citrus Production for the Southeastern Coastal Plain. Click here to view the flyer and register online, or contact for more information about the program, please contact Clay Olson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (850)838-3508.
What is Citrus Greening?
Huanglongbing (HLB), also known as citrus greening, is a bacterial disease that adversely affects the vascular system of citrus trees. Consequently, the disease reduces yield, fruit size and quality, and increases tree mortality and cost of production. Citrus greening affects all citrus cultivars and causes tree decline, a serious threat to Florida’s citrus industry. First found in Florida in 2005, HLB has spread rapidly across the state. As of January 2016, there is neither a cure nor an economically viable option for managing HLB-infected trees.
Click the link below to view the maintenance schedule for citrus growing in USDA hardiness Zone 8b
Foliar fertilization is a technique of feeding plants by applying liquid fertilizer directly to their leaves. Plants are able to absorb essential elements through their leaves. The absorption takes place through their stomata and also through their epidermis. In Florida, foliar nutrition programs are becoming more common and extensively used to deliver all of the essential elements to citrus trees. Furthermore, economic and environmental considerations require the utilization of more efficient methods for nutrient applications. Foliar application of fertilizers is more efficient than traditional soil application because of better, faster nutrient uptake and reduced losses. Although field research has shown that supplemental foliar feeding can increase yield by 10 to 25 percent compared with conventional soil fertilization, foliar fertilization should not be considered a substitute for a sound soil-fertility program.
Timely applications of Magnesium Nitrate, Manganese Nitrate and Zinc Nitrate can be utilized in your citrus programs to promote nutrient efficiency during
the growing season and realize your maximum yield potential. The nitrate form of nitrogen is the preferred form of Nitrogen in the citrus plant, and is most efficiently absorbed through the plant tissue and leaves.
If you would like to know more about citrus greening and foliar application, please contact your local Extension Agent.
Clay B. Olson-County Extension Director-Taylor County