Grower Profile

Growth Products Talks One-On-One With Citrus Veteran Gary Briscoe

Gary Briscoe

Tell us about the two groves.
The Collier Company Grove is one of the oldest in the area. One thousand acres were planted in 1967, and another 200 acres have been added. The grove is jointly owned by Collier Enterprises and the Barron Collier Companies.

The Oak Hammock Grove, which was put into production twenty years ago, has 1,045 acres and is owned by the Barron Collier Companies. With the exception of 110 acres of grapefruit, the groves are comprised of early-mid and late-season oranges, primarily Hamlins, Pineapples and Valencias.

Like most citrus managers in Florida, you've had to deal with severe greening and citrus canker problems. What has been your approach?
I adopted a no-holds-barred approach, and have been incredibly pleased with the results. Two years ago, I had 100 acres of Hamlins that looked horrible. Ninety percent of the trees were infected with citrus canker, and nearly 100 percent had greening. Production bottomed out at zero and I was about to push the block. Instead, topped the trees, then - inspired by the "Maury Boyd cocktail" - I began an aggressive foliar spray program with Growth Products' "TKO"® Phosphite, Companion® Biological Fungicide, MicroTech AG/CT and SAR Activator SA with 10% Salicylic Acid.

Today the trees look great, with incredible growth, color, and fruit size. Soon I'll be picking 15,000 boxes of fruit from that block, up from zero two years ago. The greening isn't gone - it never will be - but the trees are healthy and productive. And if that block can be resurrected, then any block in Florida can be.

What type of topping do you employ?
For the block I just mentioned, I did fairly extreme topping, reducing the tree canopy by fifty percent. I have a hunch that radical topping of diseased trees, followed by an aggressive nutritional and disease-management program, is central to success in today's environment. I'm expanding radical topping to other parts of the grove, as I continue aerial sprays of the Growth Products' mixture four times a year and add MicroTech AG/CT to every low-volume ground spray.

Tell us about your career in citrus.
I've been around citrus since I started helping on my family's grove near Avon Park when I was twelve. I received my B.S. in Citrus Culture from Florida Southern College, and have been with Barron Collier for the past 23 years.

How do you stay current with industry research and trends?
I'm fortunate to have the University of Florida's IFAS Research Station, with a dozen Ph.Ds, here in Immokolee, and I attend many of its events. I have also served on the Southwest Florida Research Council and the Citrus Advisory Committee.

What advice would you give someone who is new to the industry?
The citrus industry is much less stable than it used to be, and holds a lot of challenges. So I'd tell someone to follow their heart. If someone has a love for the industry, the industry will have its rewards for that person. But to be successful, a person needs patience and persistence, along with a head for business. Budgeting and accounting are as important in the citrus business as they are in any business.

What are the biggest challenges for the citrus industry today?
Survival! To sustain the groves and keep the trees healthy enough to be productive. This is a somewhat scary time for the industry, but I have nothing but optimism.

What's your favorite book?
Florida Cowmen: A History of Florida Cattle Raising, by Joe Akerman, Jr., is an old book but a great read. It chronicles the history of Florida's cattle industry from the conquistadors in the 1500s, through Spanish and British rule and the Civil War, and on to recent times. Florida has quite a history, and the book details some of the state's notorious outlaws and their cattle rustling schemes.

Your favorite quotation?
"All things are possible with God." I play guitar and sing Christian rock at my church, and I give God the credit for everything in my life.

Do you wrestle with gators?
No, but sizeable gators show up at the house on a regular basis, along with bears, panthers, wild hogs, wild turkeys, and nearly every other kind of wild critter that lives in Florida. I live on a pristine and isolated tract of land, where I can enjoy wildlife and train quarter-horses.

Total Turn-Around Program
Rate Per Acre
Application Timming
"TKO" Phosphite 0-29-26
100% Phosphite
2 Quarts per Acre
First application should be sprayed during the Bud Induction Dormant Spray. Followed up by an additional 4-5 sprays during the year.
Companion Biological Fungicide
16 oz per Acre
SAR Activator SA
10% Solution of Salicylic Acid
1 Quart per Acre
MicroTech AG 4-4-5
Chelated Micronutrients & Organic Enhancers
3 Quarts per Acre