Presenting an opportunity to citrus growers
FFVA trade associate member Plant Health Care is a leading provider of scientifically proven biological products for the agricultural industry. The company serves customers in many parts of the world, but at this moment is paying special attention to addressing the needs of Florida citrus growers with its product Employ®.
The active ingredient in Employ® is the Harpin αβ protein, which stimulates the plant’s natural growth and defense systems. In 2015-16, PHC conducted replicated trials with independent researchers in Florida as well as with a major citrus grower with a 100 percent success rate related to reduction in fruit drop in trees infected with citrus greening, which is spread by the Asian citrus psyllid and threatens the entire Florida citrus industry. In those Employ trials, there was an average of 9 percent reduction in the fruit drop as well as an increase in pounds solids.
Given the positive trial results, PHC is offering an opportunity for growers to participate in a program that will allow them to receive at no charge a sample of PHC’s Employ® to test the performance of the product in on-farm settings.
“We recognize that fruit drop in the presence of HLB is a major issue for the citrus industry. The purpose of the Employ trial program is to get the product into the hands of growers so they can touch it and use it themselves and gain some experience with it,” said Paul Schmidt, Plant Health Care’s chief executive officer. “Employ is registered by the EPA, is tolerance exempt and, as it is not a fungicide, also fits a profile that does not lead to fungicide resistance” Schmidt added.
The company began contacting growers in August, with a notice in the FFVA Voice and a presence at the Citrus Expo in Fort Myers. This month, PHC representatives will be at FFVA 2016 as an exhibitor and sponsor of an Issues Forum. They will offer information about Employ and sign up growers who wish to conduct trials. “We will subsequently contact people who are interested to see if they qualify to conduct the trials and collect the data that we would be looking for to confirm or otherwise assess the performance of the product,” Schmidt said.
The goal is to secure about 20 to 30 demo sites, where growers would use the product in accordance with their normal application practices. Results should come in late this year or early next year.
“Also, if there are interested growers who don’t have the chance to talk to us at the convention, they can contact us anytime and express their interest at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d be happy to take their information in that way. They don’t have to sign up at an event,” Schmidt said.
Plant Health Care was founded in 1995 as a company that marketed a selection of natural and/or organic products in different parts of the world. The company was initially based in Pittsburgh and in 2006 was listed on the London Stock Exchange. In 2013, the company moved its headquarters to Raleigh, NC. Its research facilities and activities, located in Seattle, have been expanded significantly in the past three years, with a focus on a new generation of technologies.
Schmidt says one way PHC stands out as a company is its dual focus on research and commercial activities. “We sell our products internationally, but at the same time we have research and development activity where we’re developing new generations of technology and products. We’re integrated on both sides of the equation. Sometimes companies will only be a commercial enterprise or only a research enterprise. We’re operating in both areas,” Schmidt said.
The biggest challenge for PHC in bringing Employ® to the Florida citrus market is simply that the company is new to the region. But that’s changing. Schmidt says that his team is in discussion with people who will be making contacts and spreading the word.
“We have been in discussion with FFVA and other interested and informed stakeholders, because we want to do everything possible to get out there and make this product available to people. It’s not a 100 percent solution to the problems associated with citrus greening, but it can definitely help. And I think anything that can help is welcomed in this regard.
“We’re really looking forward to getting involved and engaged in this market and hopefully being of some help for the citrus growers. We’re in the business of providing solutions for growers, so if we can in some small way contribute, we’d be delighted,” Schmidt said.
Learn more about Plant Health Care at www.planthealthcare.com or call 1-800-421-9051.