Hurner Earns 2013 International Certified Crop Adviser from the American Society of Agronomy
Source Newsroom: American Society of Agronomy (ASA), Crop Science Society of America (CSSA), Soil Science Society of America (SSSA)
Newswise — Oct. 25, 2013—Tim Hurner earned the 2013 International Certified Crop Adviser (ICCA) of the Year from the American Society of Agronomy. Hurner will travel to Tampa, FL in early November to receive the award during the 2013 International Annual Meetings of the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America.
As a CCA, it is Hurner’s role to advise growers on best practices, both for economic return, and for the environment. Hurner worked in the Highlands County (FL) extension office, and in 2012 and started his private consulting business, “The Citrus Advisor.” He was one of Florida’s original CCAs, earning his certification from ASA in 1998.
A career of fighting citrus challenges
One of the major changes Hurner has seen is a reduction in the number of pesticide sprays. When he started his career, producers sprayed five or six times, but today they average two. “Improper timing was the biggest factor. Growers weren’t good at timing and weren’t scouting their groves. We taught them how to identify the problem pest, estimate the population, and then pick the right time to spray. Over my career, the number of spray applications has been greatly reduced.”
Production was also limited by poor understanding of pH, phosphorus interactions in the soil, and micronutrient deficiencies. “Over the years, we discovered a need to add in micronutrients, and yields increased by 50%. Before trees weren’t a rich healthy green, but when we began to add molybdenum, trees became greener and healthier.”
Growers also discovered a need to add phosphorus (P) to their fields. “Our soils are high in unavailable phosphorus. When growers started using TSP (triple super phosphate),” the met with success.
Hurner helped growers in Highland County change their liming practices. Soils in this area have an acid pH around 5.5, and in the past, growers limed their soil when they irrigated from shallow wells. “Today our irrigation water is pumped from a deeper limestone rock formation with a pH of 7 to 7.2 with carbonates that naturally correct our acidity,” says Hurner. “Growers don’t lime anymore unless they pump shallow water of poorer quality.”
Each of these new practices saves money and increases yields.
The biggest challenge to Florida growers is citrus greening. It causes trees to decline and die within three years. The disease destroys the production, appearance, and economic value of citrus trees and their fruit. There is no cure.
Citrus greening is spread by the Asian citrus psyllid, a tiny insect that feeds on the leaves and stems of citrus trees. “When a citrus psyllid feeds on an infected tree, it picks up the bacteria and can transfer it to another tree during feeding forays,” says Hurner.
His goal has been to teach growers how to look for symptoms, cull infected trees, and prevent infection. “Growers must control the insect that transmits the disease, or once a tree becomes infected, it must be removed to protect nearby citrus trees as diseased trees become a reservoir of the bacteria and breeding ground for Asian citrus psyllids.”