GAINESVILLE--- Beginning earlier this month, Florida citrus growers have had an updated resource to help them keep groves productive despite the ever-present threat of Huanglongbing, the bacterial malady also known as HLB or citrus greening disease.
Experts with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences just completed a 180-page technical handbook, "Florida Citrus Production Guide 2018-2019."
The guide covers all aspects of grove establishment and management in Florida’s current growing environment, said editorial team member Lauren Diepenbrock, an assistant professor of entomology with the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred.
"HLB has imposed many changes on citrus production, and our goal was to gather all of the most important current information into one place," said Diepenbrock, one of three editors who coordinated the efforts of 42 contributing authors who wrote, revised and updated material for the 2018-2019 guide.
In addition to sections on grove establishment, nutrition, irrigation, pests and diseases, the guide features two new chapters this year, concerning cold protection and the Citrus Under Protective Screen system used to grow high-value fruit for the fresh market.
Diepenbrock notes that the guide also covers the new federally mandated Worker Protection Standards, which took full effect in January 2018.
"Employers need to make sure they're in compliance, so we included material on that topic," she said.
The current guide evolved from a smaller handbook devoted to citrus pest management, which was prepared by UF/IFAS entomologists and had been in production since at least the early 1980s.
Revised editions of the pest management guide were issued annually, and assisted growers in coping with Diaprepes citrus weevil, citrus rust mite and many other challenges. With the emergence of the HLB crisis, it became clear that growers needed an expanded resource covering all factors relevant to successful citrus production when the HLB pathogen is found statewide and virtually all commercial groves contain infected trees.
Responding to this need, last year's project team rolled out a more comprehensive handbook that included sections devoted to horticulture, plant pathology and soil and water science, she said.
"This year, we not only updated the material, we joined forces with a new publisher, Meister Media," Diepenbrock explained. "They were responsible for securing sponsors and printing the physical copies of the guide."
The editorial team hopes to receive feedback from growers about the new edition so that they can make improvements for the 2019-2020 guide, expected next summer.
"We consider the guide to be a work in progress," Diepenbrock said. "One question I've been asking myself is, ‘how we can make the guide more engaging and accessible?’ I'm hoping that growers will have some suggestions in that vein."
Besides Diepenbrock, the editorial team included two of her colleagues at the Citrus REC: Megan Dewdney, a plant pathology associate professor, and Tripti Vashisth, a horticultural sciences assistant professor. The contributing writers included citrus experts with the Citrus REC, the UF/IFAS Indian River Research and Education Center and Southwest Florida Research and Education Center, the UF main campus and the Florida Department of Citrus.
A digital edition of the guide is available free of charge at http://www.crec.ifas.ufl.edu/extension/pest/.