A UF/IFAS entomologist discusses alternatives to Imidacloprid for Asian citrus psyllid control in Florida citrus groves.
Everyone in the Florida citrus industry is looking for a way to beat citrus greening, also called HLB. While there has been no “silver bullet” yet, there are many different options that have shown positive effects. Bactericides and psyllid control—managing the insect vector that spreads citrus greening from tree to tree—are two such options. However, balancing each option is important, especially with the overuse of insecticides like Imidacloprid, according to a UF/IFAS entomologist Phil Stansly in a Citrus Industry article. See his suggestions below.
Psyllid Control Outside of Imidacloprid, and More
Psyllid control is important, but it’s a delicate balance, Stansly shared. Psyllid populations have been increasing over the years, and the cause could be two-fold. First, growers are putting money into bactericides, and leaving out psyllid control. “A lot of the growers are easing off the insecticides just because of cost considerations,” Stansly said. On the other hand, some psyllid populations have become resistant to Imidacloprid. “We’re seeing problems with imidacloprid because it’s being overused,” he explained.
Either way, ““We’ve seen and the growers have seen, too, that soil applications of systemic insecticides are not sufficient to protect the trees, and we need some other practices that will help augment those,” he said. He added that Imidacloprid “needs to be alternated with sprays of other materials on young trees. So we need to ease up on the imidacloprid, but we need to look for other ways to protect young trees from psyllids and thus greening.”
Stansly shared these other options:
- reflective mulch. Stansly referred to it as “one very powerful tool” in psyllid control.
- Citrus under protective screen (CUPS) and small cages around trees.
- Proper fertigation and irrigation and the use of compost . Those are things that don’t directly affect either HLB or ACP, but they do help the tree grow. So it’s about horticulture, and it’s about growing the tree,” Stansly said.
In conclusion, he shared, “I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing to ease off, but we need to be smarter about how we do it. I think that we can improve the efficiency of our use of insecticides and also help bring back the biological control which we largely have blown out of our groves with a lot of our broad-spectrum insecticides. I think better choices of insecticides and better choices of how to use them can help us bring back biological control as a tool.”
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Image courtesy of U.S. Department of Agriculture.