Human Ecology of California’s Citrus Nursery Industry
The modern agricultural management paradigm (especially for citrus nurseries) is characterized by heavy focus and reliance on chemical science and hope in GMO technology to solve our most feared pest and disease threats. (An opposing paradigm is Agro-ecology, pioneered by Dr. Miguel Altieri)
Most citrus nurseries rely heavily on chemical pesticides such as the Neo-nicotinoids (probably a factor in ‘bee decline’), Malathion and others. By contrast, a true Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach observes ecology and seeks balance. Due to overwhelming economic pressures, this ecology-minded approach is not often demonstrated in citrus nurseries today, so chemical pesticides remain a tool of first resort. One can hardly blame growers for being concerned, maybe even jumpy. There are serious pests to look out for, and the heavy regulation of retail locations in pest quarantine zones means zero pest tolerance. Pest pressures are predicted to become more severe with the evolution of climate change.
The development of resistant varieties has a long history of success for applied agriculture, and is considered a cornerstone of sound Integrated Pest Management. Yet controversy is high over the questionable use of GMO technology. Concerned advocates warn that GM technology may pose long term health risks, as well as threats to ecological balance.
GMO technology offers faster (and more unknown) results than traditional plant breeding, also known as Mendelian genetics. One fear is that loose pollen from GMO’s might contaminate other crops. It has already been shown in to threaten the organic status of such crops as alfalfa, corn and safflower which can easily be contaminated by GMO pollen. The public’s concerns over serious health, environmental and economic losses leads for calls to slow down, while those in the citrus industry, faced with scary pests, see GM technology as a possible citrus savior. See this link for more on the both sides of the argument
It remains to be seen if GM citrus trees will provide the ‘silver bullet’ to save us from the dreaded citrus insect/disease complex: Asian Citrus Psyllid/Citrus Greening (Huanglongbing). ‘Save our Citrus’ hopes to slow the spread of the disease by educating the public, while a new GM citrus containing spinach DNA is being held out as the latest hope for vanquishing Huanglongbing, which has already devastated the citrus industries of China, Brazil, the Caribbean, and Florida. <<Stay tuned for further news on this dramatic story of industry survival and consumer preference.>>
Meanwhile, more and more customers are requesting Organically grown nursery products, including citrus and other fruit trees. Since 2007 I have developed and managed Four Winds Growers’ small plot of Organic nursery trees. I grow using sound IPM principles, providing sound nutrition and following NOP Rules. Establishing an area of the nursery dedicated to Organic citrus nursery production has given me the opportunity to find solutions ‘outside the box’, one of which, Organic Orange TKO, is increasing used in the ‘conventional’ 90% of the nursery, as well as in our tiny organic patch.
How long will Northern California nurseries be protected from invasion by the dreaded HLB/psyllid complex? This is impossible to predict. A pest discovery could shut us down almost immediately. But I look forward to continuing to share these wonderful Organic Citrus Nursery trees for as long as we remain free to ship around the nation.
As detailed in Solutions, Organic Orange TKO has shown itself to be highly useful as a plant wash or drench against pests on citrus nursery stock. Because of its efficacy against pests of citrus, I have recommended it to dozens of indoor citrus growers all over the United States.
The positive feedback from this sharing has reinforced my desire to improve access to this remarkable product, so I now offer grower quantities by the gallon or half gallon at discount! Free consulting for citrus growers. Call 775-781-7794.