Citrus Undercover Production Systems (CUPS)
Net houses have been used in agriculture since the middle of the 20th century and have become a standard cultural practice in the U.S.A. and around the world, particularly for annual crops and plant nurseries. In light of their sustainability and effectiveness against pests but also against environmental challenges, production systems under protective screens have gained interest for perennial cropping systems. Permanent netting structure for commercial citrus production have been implemented since the beginning of the century in many citrus-producing countries to protect against cross-pollination, sunburn, frost, hail and wind damages. In HLB-affected areas, completely sealed structures have been used to exclude the Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP) and produce HLB-free trees. This approach proved to be very effective in the citrus nurseries and is now being implemented for commercial citrus production in the U.S.
A partnership between the US Department of Agriculture, the California Citrus Research Board and the University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources has allowed us to leverage funding to build an experimental CUPS structure at the Lindcove Research and Extension Center and establish a research program to determine how this hermetic structure that excludes the ACP impacts environmental conditions and in turn tree performance and citrus production.
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Correlating Citrus Tree Health with Microbes
Successful management of HLB largely evolves around controlling ACP insect vector populations with wide-area management programs (Link). In California, release of the ACP predator Tamarixia (ACP Biocontrol) coupled with early detection/eradication of HLB-infected trees is key to keep HLB incidence low (CDFA Link).
There are very few strategies that directly target the bacterial pathogen causing HLB (CLas: Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus) living inside the tree vasculature. Our overarching goal is aimed at identifying beneficial micro-organisms associated within the microbiome (the collection of microbes) of citrus trees. We hypothesize that some microbes are to CLas what Tamarixia is to the ACP insect and those antagonistic biocontrol agents could be deployed for disease management. In addition, we suspect that some micro-organisms support key biological functions that help tree cope biotic stresses and could be used as probiotics for citrus production.
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