Making Citrus Great Again

When the Tree Defender INDIVIDUAL PROTECTIVE COVER (IPC) was first developed by Scott Thompson and Tommy Thayer, Jr., they were thinking of it as an alternative to the cure for Huanglongbing (HLB or citrus greening). “We thought we were pushing the hold button for a few years to help sustain the industry while a permanent cure was being developed,” says Scott, “but a cure hasn’t come.” With the continued success of Tree Defender, our products are now being utilized globally. The original principle was to protect the young trees for the first two years while in a vegetative state. Then when it’s ready to begin its productive state, the IPC is removed, the tree is HLB free, and it takes off with a healthy start in the field.
Now, they’re seeing the positive impacts on young citrus trees and how economical it can be for growers. Not only does the IPC provide effective HLB prevention, but increased growth as well. Tree Defender has expanded its IPC sizes up to 12’ for larger trees and has added a ring sewn into the IPC to improve function and stability. Larger sized IPCs are expected to help growers control the bloom timing, reduce pesticide use, and produce a more marketable fruit. Th e Tree Defender team lives by their high-quality standards, so they make their own top-quality mesh to be sure they are delivering the most consistent and quality products possible. Be mindful of substandard products; Tree Defender IPCs are the go-to for your wallet and peace of mind.
So far, all growers using the Tree Defender IPCs on their trees are HLB free. “Every year we scout and look, and we just can’t fi nd any signs of HLB,” states Scott. Dr. Fernando Alferez at the Southwest Florida Research and Education Center is wrapping up his third year of trials with Tree Defender and all his trees are 100% HLB free. Now that the IPC has been in use for several years, it has become apparent that covered trees can more effectively combat HLB than uncovered citrus. Unfortunately, this rampant disease is easily transmitted by the psyllid vector and has no available cure, so the trees are going to get infected eventually. But trees protected with IPCs have a huge head start. “You begin with a healthy tree that has a ramped up defense system ready to begin it’s productive life,” mentions Scott. “Th is dramatically increases the economic viability of that tree.
They just don’t succumb to HLB as quickly as one that was unprotected, infected, and with an already compromised root system.” Dr. Alferez has documented his research showing that the trees using IPCs have elevated levels of photosynthates (like chlorophyll) and plant hormones. Hormones like salicylic acid and ethylene are used in the plants’ defense systems to respond against pathogens like HLB, pests, and abiotic stresses like the wounding caused by psyllids feeding. When you remove that IPC, you have a strengthened defense system in that tree, which can better withstand the pressures of HLB. The bottom line is that trees are HLB free when they come out of the Tree Defender IPC and they withstand the negative impacts of the pathogen longer than uncovered trees. Th e fruit on trees after the IPC is removed is showing better color score, bigger size, and a higher brix degree, than unprotected trees in recent trials.
“We did some testing this past season with young Valencia’s,” discusses Scott. “We used control trees, trees under IPC for only one year before being removed, and underneath the IPC for three years before removing.” Th e trees protected for three years towered over the others and the fruit had higher positive attributes with longer protection intervals using IPCs. Th e 3-year-old tree, compared to the uncovered tree, was almost one degree higher on the Brix scale which results in higher pound solids, giving another monetary return from a non-infected, IPC tree. As the third year of their trial ends, Dr. Alferez and the Tree Defender team members hope to study fruiting inside the IPCs in the next phase. They will be documenting what the IPC usage does to the tree, what it does to the fruit, and other valuable data to help citrus growers improve their products in an economical way.
We have 2 products that are approved for the CRAFT program right now,” says Scott. “Of course, the Tree Defender IPC and we’ve also introduced our Bug Blinder, which utilizes reflective ground cover technology.” Th e Citrus Research and Field Trial (CRAFT) is a broad scale research project to help commercial citrus producers deal with and fight against HLB through resets, rootstock/scion, plant and soil nutrition, pest management, and biostimulants. “As far as I know, we have the only product available in the world that applies the reflective ground cover technology to a single tree use or reset situation,” continues Scott. “From what we’ve seen in trials so far, the Bug Blinder is extremely practical, very economical, and it works great in a reset situation. It just gives the grower another option to the IPC. Th is product also differs in a huge way from the reflective ground cover products currently in use today as it can be used in conjunction with conventional irrigation, fertilizer, and soil drench applications.”
Phase 2 of the CRAFT program is underway and will be used to collect important data focusing on fruiting in some of the larger IPCs. Furthermore, it has been noted during trials that even seedy citrus varieties produce seedless fruit when grown inside IPCs. To conduct preliminary trials, Dr. Alferez took a mature tree and covered limbs in smaller IPCs, then measured the fruit set in there growing without any pollination. Results showed about 70% fruit set inside the IPCs, compared to unprotected bloom. Dr. Alferez has also communicated he feels this gap can likely be somewhat closed using available foliar applied plant hormones. So, the growing of seedless fruit is another avenue Dr. Alferez will be exploring in future trials.
“Our initial estimates growing the tree to maturity in the larger 10’ & 12’ covers will be about 25% of the cost of C.U.P.S. (Citrus Under Protective Screen) structure, and an economical alternative for not only fresh fruit but the juice fruit grower as well” says Scott.
Keep your eye out for new products being introduced. The Tree Defender team has been improving upon a great new item that can help reduce your irrigation and liquid fertilizer usage by up to 80%! This new technology is also expected to be a very effective tool in helping to reduce the amount of excessive nutrient and pesticide runoff going into our waterways. For details about product orders, availability, and cost, call (863) 439-2877 or visit for more information. This content is a paid advertorial by Tree Defender, and does not necessarily reflect the values and opinions of CFAN or its advertisers.