Renewable Farming

How cover crops rescued a Florida citrus grove from death by greening

For several years we’ve worked with Florida citrus specialists, encouraging use of foliar nutrients plus cover crops in citrus groves to help fight off citrus greening disease. We’ve also tried to coax growers to raise cover crops, versus barren-ground spraying with glyphosate under trees and down alleys. We took our lessons from Dr. Don Huber, who has encouraged USDA and the University of Florida to at least research nutritional and biological approaches to disease control. The usual response we’v seen from grove owners and researchers has been: What do yankees know about citrus? 

December 6, 2019 — Now, a few Florida growers are showing their neighbors that cover crops and biological soil enhancers can reverse citrus greening and other diseases, which have cut Florida’s citrus production from 800,000 acres to 400,000. And these growers are getting attention from at least a few Extension specialists, plus a leading industry publication: Citrus Industry This Week. This  link should open an article, “Soil Health Focus for HLB” in which Extension agent Juanita Popenoe describes how growers Ed James and Ben Krupski are restoring health in their groves with compost and cover crops. 

When this article opens, please follow the links attached to the names Ben Krupski and Ed James to detailed reports on those two growers.

Example of cover crops between citrus trees in a Florida grove owned by Ed James
Photo by Juanita Popenoe, courtesy of Citrus Industry This Week

Since their story is so well told by Citrus Industry, we invite you to follow the links and read the full report online there.

But the principles are clear: Instead of repeatedly spraying glyphosate between and under citrus trees, cover crops gradually decompose glyphosate residues and build a diverse array of soil organisms. Those beneficials capture nutrients needed by orange and grapefruit trees. “Good” bacteria and fungi dissolve cover crop residue, converting it to nutrients for citrus roots. Each species of cover crop typically has about a dozen unique beneficial microorganisms which associate with it.

Also, with little or no glyphosate residue in the soil because of enhanced glyphosate and AMPA breakdown, the citrus trees no longer have to encounter these residual toxins.

This is an example of an effective part of a program for citrus grove protection being developed by the Florida citrus crop consultants we’re working with. They use a version of our surfactant, called WakeUP Advantage, to make their proprietary foliar sprays more effective.