The opening of a citrus breeding center should help the Sunshine State’s efforts to breed varieties resistant to disease.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam hosted an open house June 16 for the Florida Citrus Repository in LaCrosse, Fla.

Opening of the northern Florida facility should help the Tallahassee-based Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services expand its citrus germplasm program by introducing healthy new citrus varieties, said Denise Feiber, the agency’s public information director.

The 20,000 square-foot facility is significantly larger than an older 4,000 square-foot operation in Gainesville, Fla. More than 20 new varieties are expected to be released each year, representing an 85% increase in production capacity, she said.

The department’s Florida Citrus Repository is arguably the best facility of its kind in the world,” Feiber said. “With the ongoing threat of citrus greening and other citrus pests and diseases, there is a renewed sense of urgency to use every available technology to protect the citrus industry.”

The opening follows the March expansion of the state’s Dundee Biological Control Laboratory which produces an insect that attacks the Asian citrus psyllid, which spreads citrus greening disease.

Florida lawmakers provided $2 million to build the facility, which includes four greenhouses and a 5,000-square-foot building with laboratories and offices, she said.

More than 50 citrus industry professionals, lawmakers and state agriculture officials attended the dedication.