Using Drones to Prevent Citrus Greening

How to Proactively Prevent Citrus Greening with Drones

For U.S. growers in Florida, Georgia, Texas, and most recently, California, citrus greening, or Huanglongbing (HLB), continues to threaten the heart of citrus production.

Although there is currently no cure for citrus greening and no resistant citrus varieties available to growers, there are ways to prevent the occurrence of HLB. 

HSE-UAV offers superior solutions to eliminate the threat of HLB for citrus growers, with an integrated pest management (IPM) that includes utilizing the world's best spraying Drones / UAVs and Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs). This technology enables growers and applicators to effectively apply insecticides, crop protection products & other pesticides, even in hard-to-reach places. 

What Is Citrus Greening?

Citrus greening is a systemic bacterial disease — caused by bacterium Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus — that has ravaged the American citrus industries. 

The threat from citrus greening comes from the combination of a foreign insect that infests citrus trees, and the bacteria it can carry that cause the disease.

Citrus greening disease symptoms vary widely and can resemble common nutrient deficiencies.

Symptoms include new leaves that emerge small with yellow mottling or blotching, yellow shoots, enlarged and corky leaf veins, as well as fruits that are small with green ends and filled with small, dark, aborted seeds and bitter juice. The bacterial infection impedes the tree’s vascular system and inhibits the movement of nutrients.

Currently, there is no cure for HLB, and infected citrus trees can die in as little as five years. Because the symptoms initially look akin to nutrient deficiencies, HLB often goes undetected for extended periods of time. Often, by the time it is properly diagnosed, it has already spread to surrounding trees — serving as a reservoir for this economically dangerous disease.

Considering infected trees will never again produce useful fruits, rapid removal of infected trees is the only way to stop the spread of the bacteria.

This is the worst-case scenario and totally avoidable if you use the appropriate insecticides and technology to prevent the outbreak!

How Does Citrus Greening Spread? 

Interestingly, Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus needs help to spread. Yes, the bacterium can live and persist in a plant, but until it comes in contact with a vector, nothing significant occurs. However, when a vector, such as the Asian citrus psyllid, interacts with the HLB-causing bacteria, their union causes the aggressive epidemic we’re seeing in the citrus industry.

The reproductive and feeding habits of the psyllid make it the perfect carrier of the bacterium, and once infected, psyllids are disease carriers for life. They can travel miles under their own power, by air currents or as hitchhikers on harvested fruit. Controlling psyllids has become one of the primary strategies to prevent the spread of HLB.

How to Prevent Citrus Greening

When it comes to fighting citrus greening, growers face some unique challenges. 

Florida has established a production model where all citrus seedlings must be produced in enclosed greenhouses, to ensure growers begin with HLB-free citrus trees. The entire U.S. citrus nursery industry is moving in that direction, also.

This method may work even when citrus trees have matured, however psyllids are small, often no more than 1/8 inch long, so the screen must be very tightly woven. Needless to say, this is not a fool-proof solution. 

At HSE-UAV, we work in collaboration with you to select the perfect drones or UGVs for your specific needs, both right now and long term. Our approach acts in the interest of your future goals by increasing the effectiveness of your crop protection methods and shields you from labor shortages synonymous with more laborious methods. Ultimately helping you live HLB free with less headaches and higher yields. 

Keep in mind that although an IPM doesn’t automatically discourage the use of pesticides, it promotes only using them in selective areas that require immediate attention, and finding complementary, often natural ways, to address long-term challenges. Simply put, IPM involves a mixture of techniques that ensure it alleviates the pests population while also considering the long-term health of the land and the people tending to it.


Need to Apply but Don't Want to Fly? 

Get in touch with our services company, Homeland Environmental Solutions.

Homeland Enviro uses advanced technology, such as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Unmanned Ground Vehicles to complement the IPM process and to increase operator safety, reduce water use, and increase canopy penetration and access to tight or hard-to-reach areas (often where traditional equipment cannot go.)

HSE-UAV & Homeland Enviro Can Help

Are you ready to talk to the experts about how you can prevent HLB infestations and citrus greening? Let's Get Started! 


Photo Credit: David Bartels, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. All Rights Reserved.

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