Pesticide Spraying in Indian River Grapefruit: I. Survey of Current Practices

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  • 1 University of Florida, Indian River Research and Education Center, 2199 South Rock Road, Ft. Pierce, FL 34945-3138.

Pesticide spray practices for citrus (Citrus spp.) in the Indian River region of Florida were surveyed in 2001 as the first step in identifying opportunities for improving efficiency and reducing potential environmental impact. The survey covered 73% of grapefruit (C. paradisi) acreage in Indian River, St. Lucie, Martin and Palm Beach counties, comprising 70% of all Indian River commercial grapefruit. Large differences in spray practices were revealed. The focus of this survey was grapefruit spraying, since grapefruit represent 59% of fresh citrus shipped from the Indian River region, and are sprayed more intensively than citrus fruit grown for processing. In commercial groves, almost all foliar sprays to grapefruit are applied using air-assisted sprayers pulled through the groves by tractors. Use of engine-driven and power-takeoff-driven sprayers were reported with equal frequency and accounted for 89% of spray machines used. Lowvolume Curtec sprayers comprised the remainder. Spray volume for grape-fruit varied: 7.6% of acreage was sprayed at 25 to 35 gal/acre (230 to 330 L·ha-1) for all sprays; 4.2% was sprayed at 100 to 170 gal/acre (940 to 1600 L·ha-1) for all sprays; 15.3% was sprayed at 200 to 380 gal/acre (1900 to 3600 L·ha-1) for all sprays; 28.2% was sprayed at 450 to 750 gal/acre (4200 to 7000 L·ha-1) for all sprays; and 44.5% of grapefruit acreage was sprayed in a progressive manner from lower to higher volume as the season progresses. Many mid and high spray volume growers reported unacceptable results when they lowered spray volume. Although correlation was moderate (r = 0.35 to 0.45), regressions indicated that both total foliar pesticide spray material costs, and annual fungicidal copper (Cu) use increased with spray volume used for postbloom fungicides. Mean Cu use per acre was in the middle of the recommended range. All growers reported adjusting nozzling for tree height within a grove, and since Indian River groves are bedded, growers adjusted sprayer output differently for trees on bed tops versus furrows on 85% of acreage. Sprayers were shut off for missing trees on 83% of acreage, but this was done only for two or more adjacent trees on almost half of this area. Sensor-actuated sprayers were used to minimize off-target application on 14.7% of grapefruit acreage, but for an additional 21% of acreage, growers reported trying and abandoning this technology. While 88% of grove acreage was sprayed during the day, 75% of acreage sprayed using less than 100 gal/acre was sprayed at night. Growers reported no defined protocol for ceasing spray operations based on environmental conditions.

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