Travel Lessons from the Fall of 2011

Posted on December 22, 2011

November and December turned out to be extensive travel times for me. In November I spent  another two weeks consulting all over the southern half of Australia and the first week of  December was doing similarly in the citrus regions of Florida. I thought I might give you some  of my observations.
Australia: The Australians really like America and in particular Californians. They look to us for  our cutting edge technology. But I must say there are a few things we can look to them for also. Australia is a country as large in size as America with a population that is smaller than  California. With that in mind labor is an issue. Most everything over there is almost twice as  much as in the States, including labor. I heard of tractor drivers earning about $30 per hour. A  Big Mac meal here is about $5.50, over there closer to $10.00 (and their exchange rate is almost  1:1 US to Australian dollars). Though they have not seemed to adapt low volume irrigation in  their vegetables quite like we have, they have done so in their trees and vines with beautiful,  automated, on demand, and computer controlled irrigation systems. You don’t see many people  calling the irrigation company waiting for the weir to fill, and opening large gate valves. With  expensive labor they also depend on machinery a lot more than we do to accomplish much of the  field work and harvesting. I saw, albeit still experimental, a fully automated broccoli harvester. But they can also learn from us. They are a long ways away from some natural resources that we  take for granted, mainly plant nutrients. With that in mind they seem to be very frugal with their  fertilizer utilization and sometimes eking a little more out of their nutrient inputs than can be  expected. They really seem hungry to learn all they can about proper plant nutrition and that  might be where I fit in.
Florida: Though I was not in Florida to check out how they are handling Asian Citrus Psyllid  (ACP) or Huanglongbing (HLB) citrus greening disease, it was a subject that came up several  times. The bad news was, as we have already heard, their industry did not get in front of this  problem as it took off. The good news is that with an aggressive attack on it, their citrus is  surviving and I even thought I heard some optimism in people’s talk. Surviving with HLB  involves an intentional monitoring and control of ACP, while doing all you can to maintain good  tree health by providing the tree with the proper nutrients and controlling other pests that may  not kill a tree, but does hurt it. Good examples of such pests are Phytophthora spp. and Citrus  nematodes. With that in mind we in the California citrus industry need to be cognizant of the  issues and prepared to take action as we face both the disease (HLB) and its carrier (ACP).

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