A steam equipment manufacturer is successfully treating trees infected with citrus greening, also known as HLB and huanglongbing.
Using licensed technology from the University of Florida, Woodstock, Ga.-based Premier Energy Technology Inc., is using thermal therapy which is showing positive results in restoring infected trees to good health, said Tom Airhart, business development manager.
Premier steamed several hundred trees last fall with a prototype and this spring, released its first commercial machine, which it leases to growers who can add onto their grove equipment.
It has treated more than 50,000 citrus trees with its patent-pending Orange Dragonne thermal therapy products.
Preliminary testing results show the equipment, which comes in canopies for small and large trees, demonstrated a dramatic improvement in fruit size, weight and quality, Airhart said.
Premier uses the steam to kill bacteria and growers are seeing some size differences between treated and untreated trees, Airhart said.
"This takes the trees back to a healthy status," he said. "With greening, the tree"s canopy is droopy. With this treatment, it returns to where the branches are back up. I see this as being a tool in the tool bag to get us back in the high production."
Beginning in January, Premier plans to steam millions of trees and is working with growers throughout the state and through Lake Hamilton, Fla.-based Statewide Harvesting & Handling LLC.
Venice, Fla.-based ScoringAg Inc., also works with the university and is experiencing success with its copyrighted ScoringAg Tree Steamer.
Steam envelops the whole tree helping trees produce larger and sweeter fruit, said William Kanitz, ScoringAg founder and president.
"Heat works," he said. "It"s a big solution for greening. Thermal steam treatment will be a lifesaver for the citrus industry."
Kanitz said he"s working with a Washington professor on helping solve a disease affecting black sweet cherries as well as with Fresh Del Monte on paw paws and with pomegranate growers.
The company also is working with Italian olive growers to battle a disease affecting their industry, he said.