The Vanguard Award was established in 2017 to honor organizations and individuals within the irrigation industry who are helping to promote and implement efficient irrigation. With no more than three awards given per year, it aims to recognize the most innovative irrigation projects executed throughout the year. ASI is extremely proud to be one of the 2021 recipients!

The awarded project, known as the Citrus Under Protective Screen (CUPS) project, was spearheaded by the Dundee Citrus Growers Association, a Florida fruit growing cooperative, as well as Precision Citrus, LLC, an agricultural construction company specializing in the engineering and installation of ULMA Agricola growing structures. The goal of the project is to formulate an answer to the increasing threat of psyllids and citrus greening disease to Florida's citrus industry. We developed a protective barrier to shield from this disease while still allowing the permeation of natural rainfall and sunlight. This required a highly-technical automated irrigation system to monitor weather and soil conditions, delivering precise amounts of water and nutrients to the trees. ASI was instrumental in the design, sourcing, and installation of the irrigation system used. Our results were outstanding, with no psyllids detected nor any incidents of citrus greening to date. Looking forward, CUPS is the primary source of long-term optimism for Florida's citrus industry and ASI will be looking to assist with other CUPS projects to continue this success.

CUPS Project Background: Citrus Greening Devastation

Citrus greening, sometimes known as huanglongbing (HLB), has had a devastating background in the Florida citrus industry since its discovery in 2005. Citrus greening is a bacterial disease primarily spread by insects called psyllids. There is no known cure and, once the tree has been infected, it typically dies within a few years. Over 75% of Florida's citrus production has been lost to the disease, resulting in the once-vibrant ecosystem of growers and agribusinesses struggling to protect their citrus yields and stay in business.

The goal of the CUPS project was to address the challenge posed by citrus greening by creating a highly-controlled growing environment that insulated the trees from the psyllids and other disease-carrying insects. The system was designed to minimize the use of water, chemicals, pesticides, and fertilizers, and uses a protective barrier that still allows the permeation of natural rainfall and sunlight.

CUPS Project Methodology: Highly Technical Irrigation

Irrigation system supplying water for the C.U.P.S. project in Dundee, FL.

Growing young citrus trees under the unique environment of a protective screen barrier in Florida requires a highly technical, automated irrigation and control system methodology to monitor weather and soil conditions and deliver precise amounts of water and nutrients to every tree in the most efficient way possible.

The protective screen growing structures were provided by ULMA Agricola and installed by Precision Citrus, LLC. Before this commercial project, growing citrus under protective screens was almost exclusively limited to research settings. Leveraging a concept that would have been considered radical even 10 years ago, CUPS is now moving from the research stage to the commercial stage, with the Dundee Citrus Growers Association being one of the earliest adopters. Using high-density planting, they were able to plant 324 trees per acre compared to just 175 per acre using conventional planting methods.

All phases of irrigation, fertigation, and weather sensing are automated thanks to technologies like the Bermad 2500 controller, Metos IMT 280 weather station, soil sensors, and engine diagnostics. Hydraulic valves in both the fertigation and irrigation systems are actuated using radio telemetry. Run cycles for either irrigation or fertigation are dictated by soil moisture and PH, nitrogen levels, temperature, and wind speed, provided by the weather sensing equipment.

CUPS Project Results: Resounding Success

By all measurements available, the CUPS project has been a resounding success. To date, there have been no psyllids detected nor any incidents of citrus greening. Compared to conventional citrus developments in the era of citrus greening, here are some of our result projections for the immediate future:

  • Yields are projected to increase from 300 boxes per acre to 850 boxes per acre. Pack-out percentages are also expected to be significantly higher.
  • Water usage is projected to be 35% less.
  • Pesticide usage is projected to be 65% less.
  • Fertilizer usage is projected to be 15% less.
  • Overall production costs are projected to be 35% less.
  • Size and sweetness of fruit are projected to be significantly better than baseline.

The protective barrier of the CUPS system combined with precision agriculture is yielding high-quality, disease-free citrus while minimizing the use of water, fertilizer, and pesticides.

Call us today to schedule our irrigation services!

Let our services speak for themselves! At Agri Services International, part of our specialty is providing services and solutions for irrigation systems. We install and maintain these systems with the utmost care and quality. Our services are available in Florida and in nearby states such as Texas and North Carolina. Call us today at 772-468-0888 to schedule an appointment.