One Florida Citrus Operation is trying to block citrus greening’s access altogether.

Citrus greening’s impact on Florida’s citrus industry is daily news in The Sunshine State, as are the ways and means that are being tried to beat the disease, also called HLB. One such piece of recent news is the completion of the facility for Precision Citrus. It’s a Florida citrus operation that is attempting to grow citrus trees entirely under the cover of screens, thus blocking citrus greening from ever reaching and infecting its citrus trees. Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture, Adam Putnam, toured the completed facility of the Florida citrus operation.

Details of the Facility

Precision Citrus is a Florida citrus operation utilizing CUPS—Citrus Undercover Production Systems. Imagine a gigantic screen enclosure with rows of citrus trees rather than a swimming pool, and you’re close. The facility is the project of Ed Pines, according to a article on the Florida citrus operation, who believes his CUPS operation will solve many of the current problems the industry is having with poor quality fruit and low harvests caused by citrus greening. ““Our structures eliminate the HLB vector from our groves and allow us to be precise with our inputs and agricultural practices,” Pines said in the article.

The CUPS innovation comes from Asian countries like Japan where high-end fruit is raised in undercover systems to grow perfect, blemish-free fruit. The Lake-Wales operation of Precision Citrus features 20 acres of newly planted seedless, easy-peel mandarins. The company expects a limited supply of Tango and Early Pride mandarins for the 2017-18 season.

Benefits of CUPS

The advantages of the CUPS operation are numerous. First and foremost, the screens keep out the Asian citrus psyllid, the miniscule insect that spreads citrus greening from tree to tree. Safe under the screens, Precision Citrus’s trees will never be infected with citrus greening.

Pines and other stakeholders in the CUPS attempt—there are many, from UF/IFAS researchers to the Dundee Citrus Growers Association and Farm Credit of Central Florida—hope such Florida citrus operations will allow for citrus harvest levels to remain high enough to support infrastructure and other parts of the citrus industry while treatments, cures and resistant rootstocks are being developed.

The advantages of growing under the cover of screens doesn’t end at citrus greening. The screens will protect the citrus from other diseases and insects, including any new pests that show up in the future. This lowers the costs of insecticides and other treatments, because they simply aren’t needed.

The screens also protect the trees from bad weather like hail, cold weather and the scorching sun. Additionally, CUPS operations can also incorporate precision irrigation and nutrient systems—which Precision Citrus’s facility has. This saves water and money by giving the trees exactly what they need and nothing more. “It is important that our methods help bring a sustainable, long-term solution, taking into consideration the conservation of our natural resources as well as consumer demands for less chemicals and better quality in our fruit,” Pines said.

Adam Putnam toured the facility in September, saying, “It’s said that necessity is the mother of all invention, and today I toured one way the citrus industry is fighting back against greening.” It’s a win for all of Florida.

Griffin Fertilizer is committed to helping both growers and ranchers make sound agronomic and economic decisions in order to maximize the health of their grove and pasture. As a full-service custom dry & liquid fertilizer blender and crop protection product distributor, we will continue our mission to further advance Florida agriculture. For questions or concerns about your farm or pasture, contact us and one of our team will be in touch.