The Asian Citrus Psyllid and the HLB disease it carries continues its westward march leaving Florida and Georgia and the rest of the south with $3 billion in losses. California’s $1 billion citrus industry is now under threat but there is hope for CA nurseries using new greenhouses by Airstream Innovations.
When the CDFA mandated only certified Psyllid/HLB-free trees may be sold or planted in California, this left citrus nurserymen needing someplace to raise future generations of citrus trees. On a chance encounter, they met David Chelf of Airstream Innovations who helped the nurserymen not only grow certified pest-free trees, but ended up boosting their plant growth and overall productivity over 30% and at a third the price of a conventional greenhouse.
Chelf appeared on the scene at just the right time in history. He perfected his technology over 10 years, receiving patents throughout the world. If you’re not already familiar with the concept, it starts with air intake towers, set up at one end of the greenhouse. Around the entire perimeter a thick skirt is embedded into the ground. A very large, durable translucent cover is attached to the skirt and when the fans are turned on, the tunnel is inflated creating structures from ¼ acre up to 1.5+ acres. Once inflated, an automated vent door is added, and it’s ready for planting. Installation runs about $5.50 per square foot and is typically completed within two-weeks upon start date without pouring a foundation or adding to the property tax.
California citrus nurserymen are not only receiving certifications, but more importantly they are reporting higher production rates including reduced water and pesticide use; seedling to budding 30 days sooner than expected; 30% more root and leaf growth; extended growing seasons and improved worker satisfaction.
Rob Brokaw of Brokaw Nursery of Avocado fame, expanded into the citrus industry with three one-acre+ units protecting 150,000 square feet. Sun Pacific, growers of the famous Cuties® brand, is installing two of Airstream’s largest structures near Bakersfield totaling over three acres. Psyllid/HLB-free trees are also thriving at Willits & Newcomb and Mulholland Citrus in Riverside County and five one-half acre tunnels are going in for Young’s Nursery in Palm Desert.
Meeting the needs of the CA citrus nurserymen is reaching one-million square feet in full production by year end. Chelf has proven his greenhouses can produce certified reliable safe product and has demonstrated productivity improvements over conventional alternatives. Airstream is working with growers interested in taking advantage of this technology. To schedule a tour of an Airstream facility, call (858) 755-1822.