(UPDATED COVERAGE, March 24) Florida’s citrus industry has a battle plan on how to fight the destructive citrus greening disease.
The Bartow-based Florida Department of Citrus in 2008 contracted with the National Academies to identify promising research projects to fight the disease, called huanglongbing or HLB.
On March 23, the academies’ National Research Council released its final report to provide Florida’s citrus industry recommendations to fight greening, which affects citrus trees.
Tom Jerkins, president of the Citrus Research and Development Foundation Inc. and vice president and general manager of Blue Goose Growers, Fort Pierce, Fla., said the report provides a comprehensive set of strategic recommendations for managing and discovering solutions to stop the spread of greening.
“Fortunately, the industry is well down the path of implementing some of the research recommendations,” he said in a news release. “Strategies recommended for improved management of greening will take an unusually high degree of grower cooperation and industry leadership to be successful.”
The report includes 23 recommendations that include cultivating greening-resistant citrus trees, creating “citrus management areas” to help mitigate greening and integrating efforts to improve insecticide control of the Asian citrus psyllid, which spreads the disease.
Andrew Meadows, director of communications for Florida Citrus Mutual, Lakeland, said the industry is already implementing some of the recommendations, such as forming of the Citrus Research and Development Foundation, a disease research coordinating body.
“Growers passing the referendum in December to raise the cap on the research tax and form the research and development foundation is an example of how growers are really unified on this quest to find a scientific solution to greening,” Meadows said. “We have a couple of widespread coordinated psyllid management programs going on in Gulf and Indian River citrus growing regions. That tells us we are headed in the right direction.”