Explore why University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) gibberellic acid recommendations say to not treat citrus in spring.

Recent research into treatments that help Florida citrus trees to mitigate the effects of citrus greening have led to gibberellic acid recommendations for both late season and early season citrus. Gibberellic acid has been shown to improve yield, reduce fruit drop, and help the trees to combat the citrus greening-causing bacteria. However, a recent UF/IFAS Tip of the Week maintains that gibberellic acid applications are not recommended for spring. Explore why below.

Spring Gibberellic Acid Recommendations

According to the article, Florida citrus growers using gibberellic acid (GA) applications have reported “encouraging observations of good flushing on trees following fall GA applications.” This has evidently translated to growers wanting to use GA applications during the spring to “promote vegetative growth on HLB-affected trees.”

Yet the article maintains that UF/IFAS gibberellic acid recommendations warn against using GA in the spring because the effects of such treatments are not what growers are looking for. Research conducted on the use of GA prior to the arrival of citrus greening showed that “postbloom GA application improved fruit set and aided fruitlet retention,” and not vegetative growth. Essentially, citrus trees will put their limited resources (because of the effects of citrus greening) into fruit set rather than vegetative growth.

While it could be argued that “improved fruit set” is an attractive effect in any citrus grove, the article asserts that citrus greening has caused citrus trees to set more fruit than they can sustain, leading to fruit drop. Gibberellic acid treatments can actually exacerbate this if applied in spring, causing the tree to set even more fruit than it can maintain, which wastes precious tree resources when the extra fruit drops.

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