As HLB, or Citrus Greening, continues to devastate the Florida citrus industry, many different organizations, including the citrus industry itself, researchers, and commercial manufacturers are trying to find ways to minimize or ideally eliminate the disease.
ScoringAg, a Florida based food safety equipment manufacturer, has developed several different techniques that growers can use to prevent the spread of the bacteria, which is generally found to be carried by psyllids. The company has already developed and distributed their TreeSteamer© solution, which it says is ideally suited to older, mature trees. Now, it has devised a product to protect young trees.
Called TreeTubes©, essentially it is a protective mesh that surrounds young trees, preventing psyllids from even infecting the tree in the first place. The technology was initially inspired by the protective barriers that keep worms out of cherry trees.
"The ScoringAg TreeTube© method creates a physical barrier to insects and worms for each tree, preventing infection without sprays or poisons of any kind," said William Kanitz of ScoringAg. "We bought a roll of the mesh used to protect cherry trees from worms and experimented with how to use it for the citrus industry. We came up with the tube form and keep it open at the top, so the grower in the field can decide which length he needs to cut off for each tree. TreeTubes© are made out of special woven polyester fiber which is patented and manufactured only for ScoringAg."
Design and benefits
The TreeTubes© are intended to be installed as early as possible once the tree is planted. Being a mesh, it can be shaped to the tree being protected, which the company said is one of the bigger advantages along with the fact that the mesh is fine enough to keep the psyllids out, but not too fine to prevent other necessary spraying.
"We tested several mesh sizes with growers and the University of Florida's Dr. Stansly to find out the right mesh size to keep psyllids out and still let required spray through," Kanitz explained. "The other good thing with our TreeTubes© is, they can be made in any diameter needed or wanted. Citrus trees do not have all the same length or size when they come out of the greenhouses nor do they have the same growing shape. For example, grapefruit trees are short and blocky. If a grower decides to put TreeTubes© on and leave it on until first harvest he can do it with our TreeTubes©. It saves a lot on the labor cost as well as sprays."
By creating that physical barrier, it negates the need for chemical control, of which psyllids are largely resilient to. It also means it's a viable solution for organic growers, as the tree is protected without any chemical intervention.
According to Kanitz, growers using the mesh found a side benefit to having them on the trees. "Another advantage of the special woven polyester fiber is the dissemination of light that helps the trees to grow faster (about 20 percent)," he explained. "Growers using TreeTubes© already noticed after only two months, the trees have doubled their size of leaves and are twice as tall as the unprotected trees in the grove. This will cut the time until first harvest."
Plans for expansion
Providing a solution against citrus greening in Florida is not the company's end goal. Kanitz noted that the majority of insects can be locked out of trees, given the nature of the physical barrier. This includes other invasive insects such as leaf miner. Furthermore, it can be used for many varieties of fruit crops, and is designed for use anywhere in the world.
"The Citrus Leaf Miner may help spread citrus canker because of leaf damage from the insect," Kanitz said. "Growers can keep Citrus Leaf Miner off young trees by covering them with ScoringAg TreeTubes©. The biggest concern is windblown rain as the main driver of canker infection through groves by spreading bacteria from existing lesions to young susceptible leaves and fruit, and providing the moisture for stomata or wound entry. TreeTubes© act as the needed windbreakers to prevent canker spreading, besides keeping insects out. They can also protect trees from other devastating threats besides psyllids, including deer, squirrels, birds, beetles, caterpillars and others. Furthermore, because of the stretchy material, it protects from hail storms."
"We deliver to any area where citrus is planted in the world," he continued. "From the southern states in USA from Florida to California and to any country of the world, like Brazil, Belize, or the EU for example. We feel we beat citrus greening and want to help ensure the survival of the citrus industry around the world. It also works for any other fruit tree as we can accommodate to any size of trees. We've even been able to use it on grapes."
For more information:
Tel: +1 (941) 926-3400