Interview with Frank Giles of Florida Grower Magazine

David Gilliam
What is your job title and description?
David Gilliam, Region Horticultural Sales Manager:
I work with growers and distributors educating them about Horticultural Alliance’s DIEHARDTM products and their relationship to overall soil enrichment and root health.
Have you observed citrus growers turning more attention to root health in recent years? If so, why?
Absolutely! In past years, prior to HLB and canker, trees could be grown off “chemically” or with synthetic and unnatural means with great success. This could be done with little regard to a trees natural ability to fight disease. Most “natural” defenses start on a microbial level in the soil. Healthy soil = healthy roots, AND healthy roots = healthy trees. It seems that many growers are starting to realize the importance of truly healthy soils. I do not believe that we will ever get back to the days of growing free of chemicals; but, there is no doubt as to the realization that “microbes where created for a reason” and that past growing practices have taken a serious toll on this invaluable part of the soil environment.

Are you seeing more growers gaining confidence in replanting citrus?
This thought process seems to be all over the board. As most of us are aware, some growers are being extremely aggressive with thousands of acres of new solid set groves, as well as, aggressive reset programs. Others are resetting as needed and some outfits are sitting on their hands waiting to see what happens. The right answer seems to be anyone’s guess but I think that most agree that we have to do something if we are going to get through this. Sitting back and doing nothing could turn out to be a very dangerous gamble.
Are growers more willing to try new things in light of the onslaught of HLB?
Many growers still rely heavily on unnatural or chemical means of getting trees to production; however, the general consensus seems to be that we can really push these trees to that 4-5 year mark only to watch them quickly decline from HLB symptoms. This being said, most folks are desperate to find a way to get their trees beyond this point and are willing to try just about anything to do so.


How important is it to get new citrus plantings off to a strong start in the presence of HLB?
The answer to this question is of course very important; however, I think that the real question should be, what is “a really strong start”. There is no doubt that the growing programs currently in place are putting out fine looking 1-3 year old trees. I do not think it is possible to grow them any better at least as far as physical appearance is concerned. They LOOK great, but how “strong” are these trees really? In light of our current growing methods, “ is there a void in the natural systems which plants need to naturally fight off disease for the long haul”? So, again the question remains: What is “a strong start”?
Anything else you would like to add?
As we move forward in the wake of HLB, I believe it is extremely important that we not continue to overlook natural soil health. I think we can all agree that past agricultural practices have greatly compromised the soil health of long farmed land. Since this is not always an option in our fast paced society, there are products available to accomplish in a short time what it has taken mother nature years to do. This will however take some thinking outside the box, a willingness to try things not previously tried and the knowledge that not all products labeled “biological” or “microbial” will accomplish exactly what you need them to. Mycorrhizae, bacillus and trichoderma all serve their own different functions when it comes to soil health, as well as, many additional stimulants which can increase performance and vitality of each of these. The delivery packages and care of each of these is critical when it comes to how they will work for you. Soil health is by no means the silver bullet when it comes to dealing with HLB, canker or whatever comes next; but we do believe that it should be the foundation that we can and will build upon.

Best regards,

David Gilliam
Regional Sales Manager
Horticultural Alliance Inc.
Cell 941-920-0078? daveg@hortall.com

Jim Quinn interviews PlantPlace

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