The Citrus Research & Education Center’s citrus tree steamer unit made a public appearance at the 2015 Citrus Expo. Many growers got to see this machine in action for the first time at last week’s show. The steamer unit is being tested as a possible solution to the citrus industry’s battle against citrus greening disease or Huanglongbing (HLB). Joseph Trotochaud, a senior engineer working on the project, spoke with Southeast AgNet’s Josh McGill about this developing steamer unit.
“We have a goal of steaming 10,000 trees in two years,” Trotochaud said. A seemingly high goal, but it may be possible considering the efficiency of this remarkable machine. The truck is a two-and-a-half ton street legal military vehicle, equipped with four wheel drive. The steamer unit is also equipped with a 300 gallon water tank requiring it to only be filled every four hours. The water is heated using an on-board steam boiler similar to a Safe Portable Steam Unit as well as boilers used in commercial processes like Distillery boilers. It can produce 680 pounds per hour of steam and is powered by an internal diesel engine. The unit can treat about 150 trees a day, Trotochaud said, but he’s hopeful they will be able to treat even more as they continue to develop the unit. Additionally, to maintain its energy efficiency, regular boiler maintenance with the help of professional boiler services is needed.
Trotochaud said they are also working on a similar truck that will be able to record data from the field to help analyze their results. This truck is still in the works according to Trotochaud, but they hope to begin field trials with it soon. They have seen very positive results in the treated groves Trotochaud said, but the lab results are still inconclusive as to whether or not they have stopped the HLB bacterium.