Possibilities for Better Economic Return via Micro-budded, High Density Citrus Mani Skaria, Ph.D

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1 Possibilities for Better Economic Return via Micro-budded, High Density Citrus Mani Skaria, Ph.D Texas A&M University-Kingsville Citrus Center, Weslaco, TX The economic impact of the citrus greening disease, officially known as Huanglongbing (HLB) caused by the bacterium Candidatus Liberibacter in Florida and Cuba is startling. The citrus industry needs to find a proactive solution to be an economically profitable industry. Some researchers and citrus growers have shown that well-planned high density citrus planting can be a very profitable operation. However, this has not been widely practiced, mainly because of fear of an unknown practice, reluctance to change, and the higher initial capital investment for more trees. The devastating effect of HLB demands alternative production strategies. Ultrahigh density orchards with low cost, micro-budded trees would be an ideal replacement of the current cultural practice of wider-spaced trees. In this approach, small trees are planted five times or more dense in the field, bypassing the traditional nursery phase. Moreover, micro-budded citrus trees are known to produce fruit as early as two years after budding. Lower cost production strategies and ultra-high density plantings to maximize early return will be discussed. A tree life span of years would promote citrus production even on leased land. Micro-budded trees, ultra high density, early production, and by-passing the nursery phase all are strategies that would reduce cost and increase economic return. Additional information at

2 Possibilities for Better Economic Return via Micro-budded, High Density Citrus Mani Skaria, Ph.D Texas A&M University-Kingsville Citrus Center, Weslaco, TX The economic impact of the citrus greening disease, officially known as Huanglongbing (HLB) caused by the bacterium Candidatus Liberibacter in Florida and Cuba is startling. The citrus industry needs to find a proactive solution to be an economically profitable industry. Some researchers and citrus growers have shown that well-planned high density citrus planting can be a very profitable operation. However, this has not been widely practiced, mainly because of fear of an unknown practice, reluctance to change, and the higher initial capital investment for more trees. The devastating effect of HLB demands alternative production strategies. Ultrahigh density orchards with low cost, micro-budded trees would be an ideal replacement of the current cultural practice of wider-spaced trees. In this approach, small trees are planted five times or more dense in the field, bypassing the traditional nursery phase. Moreover, micro-budded citrus trees are known to produce fruit as early as two years after budding. Lower cost production strategies and ultra-high density plantings to maximize early return will be discussed. A tree life span of years would promote citrus production even on leased land. Micro-budded trees, ultra high density, early production, and by-passing the nursery phase all are strategies that would reduce cost and increase economic return. Additional information at

3 Possibilities for Better Economic Return via Micro-budded, High Density Citrus Mani Skaria, Ph.D Texas A&M University-Kingsville Citrus Center, Weslaco, TX The devastating effect of HLB demands alternative production strategies. Micro-budded trees, ultra high density orchard, early production, and by-passing the nursery phase all are strategies that would reduce cost and increase economic return.

4 For High Density Orchards

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6 Tree cost is the #1 issue, still the apple Industry is doing well with ultra-high density planting.

7 Micro-budded tree

8 Rio Red grapefruit 13 months-old Valencia orange 14 months-old

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12 Lower cost trees Faster fruit production

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14 High Density Plantings 7 x 11 = 565 trees/acre 3.5 x 8 = 1,555 trees/acre Cultivars Rio Red Star Ruby Marrs Valencia Hamlin Seto Meho Owari Meyer lemon 7 ft 11 ft

15 What We Know From HD Research Thus Far: Fruit yield in early years is higher Current spacing 5-15 ft in rows, ft between rows Growers reluctant to reduce row space because of equipment Spacing less than 8-10 ft in rows has little long-term advantage More trees cost more money for HD plantings Hedging and topping required HD is problem in later years

16 What We Now Need: Fruit yield in early years is higher Need to maximize this Current spacing 5-15 ft in rows, ft between rows utilize all the space Growers reluctant to reduce row space because of equipment time to change Spacing less than 8-10 ft in rows has little long-term merit no long term plan More trees cost more money for HD plantings Micro-budding make it cheaper Hedging and topping required so what?, we do it as needed It is time for a change for faster, early return to beat greening, hurricane, & land price Utilize the benefits of tree dwarfing You can make budded trees cheaper Learn from the apple industry

17 Fruit Fruit Fruit Fruit Fruit Fruit

18 SOUTH AFRICA CALIFORNIA TEXAS 21 yr-old grapefruit 908 trees/acre

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20 Tree cost only ⅓, more early fruit, early return

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22 Return on Investment

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