grant Florida research citrus greening Bayer

Three-year grant reinforces Florida citrus greening research

At the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association conference in Amelia Island, Fla., Bayer CropScience gave the Citrus Research and Development Foundation a $200,000 three-year grant to continue to develop and integrate tools to fight citrus greening, which threatens to end Florida citrus production.

Bayer Cropscience will provide the money. The Florida Specialty Crop Foundation will handle the money.

The Citrus Research and Development Foundation will use the money to help Florida citrus growers better fight the biggest battle the industry has ever faced and one that threatens to end it: citrus greening.

Citrus greening, known as Huanglongbing or HLB, can outright kill a tree within few years or it can remain in the tree for decades, but causing it to produce discolored, damaged and unsellable fruit. Smart folks say the disease has cost Florida’s citrus industry $4.5 billion in less than a decade and trimmed 8,300 jobs from the industry.

At the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association conference in Amelia Island, Fla., in late September, the association’s 70thanniversary by the way, Bayer CropScience handed over a $200,000 three-year grant to the Citrus Research and Development Foundation for citrus greening research.

Florida produces 80 percent of the country’s orange juice and it is drank in roughly 70 percent of all American homes. The citrus greening battle in Florida has been going on since 2005.

“Each year, we learn a little bit more spending the kind of funds the industry has managed to put together and I’d say it is unprecedented at least in Florida in terms of response to this challenge and it is a pleasure to be part of it,” said Harold Browning with the Citrus Research and Development Foundation.

“But we aren’t there yet. I think we are making significant advances in the science and learning a lot and developing tools. But none of these tools will be the ultimate “Silver Bullet” solution by itself, but we are starting to put those solutions together and integrate strategies in managing citrus.”

CRDF will use the money for the first year to continue its work on better ways to combat the Asian citrus psyllid, or ACP, the insect that transmits HLB. After the first year, Bayer and Florida Specialty Crop Foundation will determine how to best use the remainder of the two-year grant funds and where to focus its research dollars.

This project grant started from the ground up, so to speak. Bayer’s Florida sales group and the horticulture marketing team met earlier this year to strategies the next five or 10 years. One thing that kept coming up was “we have a very robust business in Florida citrus and because of HLB actually our (Bayer’s) sales are increasing, and the guys weren’t comfortable with this saying this was not a sustainable operation that’s going on … What were we doing to help citrus growers because they are in survivor-mode? … Florida Specialty Crop Foundation and CRDF are natural partners for us in this effort, as both organizations have the citrus expertise and outstanding research capabilities needed to combat this serious disease,” said Rob Schrick, Bayer CropScience’s horticulture business lead.

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