Florida and citrus go hand in hand. They just go together. The deep-rooted history that surrounds producing citrus fruit and juices for the masses is truly iconic and a large part of what makes the Sunshine State special. Indeed, Florida does recognize and appreciate its citrus heritage. After all, the official state license plate bears an image of an orange and its signature blossom.
It's pretty cool, too, that us locals are privy to such a multitude of fresh citrus in our supermarkets and farmers markets. Better yet, it doesn't get any more fresh when you can either squeeze a glass of orange juice or cut into juicy grapefruit harvested from a tree in your own yard.
With all that in mind, I stopped by Apenberry's Nursery in Orlando this past weekend. My visit, however, was not to check out the plethora of flowering plants, fruiting trees, and hardgoods the garden center had on display, but to learn more about a new collaborative, consumer-oriented campaign from KeyPlex and Lake County-based container citrus grower Record Buck Farms.
Representatives from both operations were on hand to discuss details of the "My Citrus Tree" program, which features an informational website (MyCitrusTree.com) and showcases the rollout of KeyPlex Citrus H/G --- a new dooryard citrus micronutrient formula. The entire promotional package is geared specifically to citrus-caring homeowners.
After taking time to speak with Rich Johnston of KeyPlex Direct and Danny Finch of Record Buck Farms (see videos) at the event, it's clear the campaign's foundation is built on the basics of education. The main lesson being taught: A healthy citrus tree not only looks more attractive and produces consistent fruit, but also is better equipped to fight off pest and disease. The latter being of utmost importance.
Unfortunately, our subtropical climate, which makes it ideal to grow citrus, also can be the perfect breeding ground for invasive plant pests and diseases. Major case in point: The Florida citrus industry has been struggling with HLB (citrus greening disease) ever since it was first reported in South Miami-Dade County in August 2005. Much time and effort has been put into trying to find a cure for this devastating disease. With few promising leads and a possible solution still years away, a lot of those efforts lately have shifted in finding ways for growers to cope with HLB. Though the exchange of research-based information has been fast and furious on the industry side of things, the general public's knowledge of such a serious problem is minimal at best.
Kudos for the campaign's proactive nature. Timing couldn't be better for an initiative like this considering the need for basic information. Going off what little most people know about citrus greening gathered from mainstream media reports (unfortunately, the majority not very comprehensive), homeowners might be feeling pressure to cut and remove their otherwise healthy citrus tree(s) in lieu of possibly hosting a destructive, economically impacting disease in their own back yard. Who can blame them?
While cutting and removing HLB-infected trees has been a common practice in infected groves for years, more growers today are trying different methods to live with greening thereby prolonging their investment's productivity. Nutritional supplementation combined with vigilant psyllid (the disease's carrier) control is proving successful for some and is now being recognized as a viable avenue for growers fighting to stay in business.
In hopes of getting the message out and spreading the word about the campaign, KeyPlex and Record Buck Farms will be taking their show on the road (plastic pink flamingos and all) and hosting similar events at multiple garden centers and nurseries around the state, according to Johnston. Locations and dates are still to be determined.
Homeowners who care to keep their citrus, or who are interested in purchasing a citrus tree for their yard (like myself), certainly need to understand the scope of greening's challenge. Sharing industry knowledge on a grand scale --- especially with those willing to learn what to look for and how to proceed --- is only going to help in this case. And, if that means protecting and ultimately saving citrus in professional groves as well as in back yards, even better. That's something all us citrus-loving Floridians can agree on and drink to --- OJ that is.
Row, row, row my boat
6 days ago