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INFORMATIONAL INITIATIVES: COMMUNICATING TO THE PUBLIC AND PUBLIC OFFICIALS THE SERIOUSNESS OF HUANGLONGBING AND OTHER THREATS TO FLORIDA CITRUS PRODUCTION AND THE COUNTERMEASURES THAT MAY BE NEEDED

Most public officials who are involved in agriculture or the funding of agricultural research projects are well aware of, and reasonably knowledgeable about, the status of HLB and its implications for the citrus industry and the broader economy of Florida. However, there are individuals and groups whose actions and decisions could have an impact on HLB management but who do not have sufficient understanding of the potential long-term effects that the HLB problem could have on the economy. The need for prompt detection and removal of infected trees, and the rigor required to mount an effective HLB management program, are still not appreciated by many growers. Some homeowners are aware of the HLB problem, but do not recognize that HLB-affected trees in their landscape plantings may be contributing to the situation and that the removal of those trees could be helpful. Officials, especially at the county and city level, are often not aware of the seriousness of the problem and its implications for the economy of their area. Table 4-2 lists initiatives for communicating information about HLB to different audiences.

TABLE 4-2 Recommended Informational Initiatives

In-1.

Expand extension efforts emphasizing the importance to HLB management of removing infected trees from groves.

In-2.

Encourage homeowners to remove and properly dispose of backyard citrus trees, particularly HLB-affected trees.

In-3.

Communicate information on HLB and its potential economic impact to government officials at the federal, state, county, and city level.

Recommendation In-1. Expand extension efforts emphasizing the importance to HLB management of removing infected trees from groves.

To the extent possible, recommendations for HLB mitigation, through inoculum removal and ACP management, should be agreed upon among researchers and extension agents and implemented uniformly in the Citrus Health Management Areas (Recommendation O-1). Current differences of opinion among extension agents have been detrimental to HLB management, causing confusion among growers. Programs for management of psyllids are advancing and improving rapidly, but there is a general lack of appreciation of the importance of rapid detection and removal of affected trees for mitigation of HLB. The extended latent period between infection and symptom development in citrus means that incidence may continue to rise for 2 to 3 years after a program is initiated, even if the program followed is rigorous. The early rise in incidence gives the incorrect impression that removal of infected trees is ineffective and makes it difficult to justify the several hundred dollars per acre annual cost of continuing the program.

In addition, the application of micronutrients and materials that induce systemic resistance has been promoted by some growers and extension personnel. However, there is no firm evidence that these measures do more than temporarily improve tree appearance, and it is likely that they are counter-productive because they leave sources of inoculum, in the form of



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