UF/IFAS researchers are looking into the benefits of shade for Florida citrus trees.

A group of researchers with UF/IFAS are studying the benefits of shade for Florida citrus trees. There’s a lot of sun in The Sunshine State; sometimes there’s actually too much, according to a Citrus Industry article written by a handful of the researchers. Too much sunshine stresses citrus trees, exacerbating the symptoms of citrus greening. Those researchers are looking into the benefits of shade for citrus trees. See the details below.

Benefits of Shade for Citrus

According to the article, “a mildly shaded citrus plant is likely to have fewer signs of stress, less HLB-spreading psyllids, less severe HLB symptoms and higher yield.” The UF/IFAS team, in conjunction with others at UF, are doing research to “assess how shade impacts the various dynamics of pests, disease, plant health and horticulture.” According to the article, laboratory testing has shown that Asian citrus psyllids, the vector that spread citrus greening, have a reduced rate of landing on citrus trees in low light settings. The research is looking into whether that carries over into the fields.

Furthermore, feral citrus trees in wooded settings have been found to have few to no psyllids on them, few instances of infection with citrus greening, very few symptomatic leaves, and few signs of sun-caused stress.

In the on-going study, which started in 2018, the team installed shade netting with 30, 50, or 70% shade over Hamlin trees already infected with citrus greening. Testing on those trees has shown improvement in the trees’ health, “prominent changes in leaf hormonal balance and the metabolism of sugars and nitrogen,” and less intense flushes. The last point may indicate longer leaf life and a reduction in leaf drop.

According to the article, the two years of research has shown that “trees under 30% shade produced twice the yields of those in full sun.”

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