Brazil is the world’s largest producer of citrus, with the U.S. second in world-wide production. Brazil has many more acres of citrus than Florida, and citrus greening was detected a full year earlier in the South American nation—in 2014—than it was in Florida. However, Brazil’s HLB management has allowed the country to see much less citrus loss than The Sunshine State has seen. A Citrus Industry article looks into the HLB management lessons that Brazil offers Florida growers.

HLB Management in Florida

Going back to the few years before citrus greening was discovered in 2005, it’s easy to see the citrus industry was thriving. Harvests numbered well over 200 million boxes a year. However, once citrus greening began to affect Florida’s citrus trees, the numbers of each following harvest continued to fall.

No one knew what to do to stop the bacteria that caused citrus greening, and HLB management “best practices” were nonexistent. Many grove owners were unable to keep up with the high grove management costs and falling receipts, and for some the only option was to abandon their groves.

Today, there are over a hundred thousand acres of abandoned citrus groves in Florida. They harbor the Asian citrus psyllid, the insect that transmits HLB from tree to tree. Surrounding citrus groves are constantly on the offense to protect their groves from the psyllids. The last citrus harvest was 81.5 million boxes, and some have even forecast it to fall even further for the 2016-17 season.

HLB Managementt in Brazil

In early 2016, Evan Johnson, a research assistant scientist at the Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred, traveled to Brazil. There he had the chance to tour citrus production areas in Parana and São Paulo states in Brazil. According to the Citrus Industry article written by Johnson, he witnessed much more success with HLB management and thus a lower impact from citrus greening.

Johnson maintained that “much of this success is dependent on the different conditions and architecture of the Brazilian citrus industry.” However, he also added that, despite the differences in conditions and architecture, “there are potential lessons for Florida citrus growers.”

Johnson witnessed “through area-wide psyllid management and inoculum removal, São Paulo citrus growers have managed to keep the incidence of HLB down.” They were not successful at first, he explained in the article. However, a solution seemed to lie in neighboring groves. “Many of these large growers saw a heavy toll of HLB on the edges of their groves and tried to develop strategies to reduce the influx of disease,” Johnson wrote.  Once growers began to work together—large groves with small groves and both with homeowners with citrus trees—the rate of infection fell below 2 percent and has gone even lower.

It’s evident that Brazil’s citrus industry has kept HLB in check with greater success than Florida growers due to cooperation. Florida’s thousands of acres of abandoned citrus groves are a problem for the whole industry, and they will need to be taken care of for HLB management to be a success.

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.