Scientists are relentlessly working to curb the continued proliferation of HLB, otherwise known as “citrus greening.” Solutions are slim and the research is moving incredibly slow; however, some findings have offered citrus growers hope amidst the growing HLB devastation, including:
- Taking a greenhouse approach. Scientists have discovered that heating potted citrus seedlings in greenhouses will kill the HLB bacterium and may rid the seedlings of HLB symptoms for up to two years.
- Putting tents in the groves. Scientists have discovered that heating HLB-infected trees in the sun by encasing them in solar, plastic “tents” can extend their productivity and resistance to HLB.
- Growing a wider citrus selection. Adding variety has proven effective. Selections explored fall into the orange-like category, including orange hybrids (with complex lineage) that demonstrate varying degrees of obvious (or possible) resistance to HLB. These selections are incredibly close to the appearance of a typical orange and, in most cases, also taste and smell similar to an orange.
- Controlling psyllids. Having a zero tolerance policy for psyllids in the grove is key. Regular ground applications, aerial applications, and perimeter sprays around the groves can be an effective approach in keeping psyllids at bay.
- Protecting young trees. Growers that use neonicotinoids on younger trees have greatly mitigated the risk of HLB.
These results, though promising, are not a cure-all for HLB. The hope is that continued research evaluation, combined with collaborative efforts and research funding, will eventually shed light on a more concrete approach in battling deadly citrus greening.
Before this solution surfaces, however, citrus growers can expect to see a drop in production for 2013-2014, due in part to HLB and other environmental factors (hurricanes, freezes, etc.). So, while huge efforts have been made to control HLB, it is clearly not enough. Scientists and growers most come together, sharing strategies and research, to win the war on HLB.
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