Opinion: Florida Citrus Growers United In Fight For Survival

Frank GilesI am proud to report that the 2014 Florida Citrus Show was the best in the event’s history. We enjoyed a record-breaking attendance of nearly 800 people and the show was buzzing with activity on the tradeshow floor and education sessions. Everyone was engaged on a level that I’ve not seen before.
What came through loud and clear during the two-day event in late January was the increasing urgency to find solutions to HLB. Not to say the citrus industry hasn’t already been alert to the threat of HLB, but last year’s fruit drop and the current season’s drop and small fruit have heightened awareness.

The Citrus Show hosted more than 25 educational presentations — many on HLB. Talks focused on what can be done now and the promise of future breakthroughs to fight the disease. There’s plenty to talk about and it was evident during the event.
One of the drivers of the Show’s turnout is the hunger growers have for information on HLB and what can be done to keep Florida’s signature crop viable for years to come.
The discussion on the tradeshow floor and in the education hall drove home the gravity of what is before us. I heard on several occasions the dreaded “infrastructure” discussion. If we drop to this many boxes, will we lose a juice plant? What about custom harvesters, equipment dealers, grove care businesses? The list goes on.

I was told by a few folks who are in the know when it comes to HLB and the research efforts now in play, we might have as little as two years to find a solution or set of solutions to HLB. You can see why there was a sense of urgency at the Show and is throughout the industry.
Growers are increasing the pressure on the scientific community to produce results for the millions of dollars being invested in research. Rightly, they have argued we simply don’t have time to wait on typical scientific time lines where absolutely every “i” is dotted and “t” is crossed. They need answers and tools to fight this disease now.
It puts our researchers in an uncomfortable position of potentially taking a risk on a hypothesis that may not be fully vetted to their liking. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a scientist say, “These are very preliminary findings. We need more research to get proof of concept.”
Those are wise words in ordinary times. These are not ordinary times. The good news is our researchers realize this and I saw evidence at the Citrus Show they are looking to move faster and get solutions to the grove.

On the flip side, growers must appreciate that if researchers step out on a limb and fail — at least they are trying. I had one grower put it to me this way: “If I get a tool or technique to fight HLB and it doesn’t, I won’t be mad at the researcher. I will be mad because it didn’t work.”
The dire nature evident at the Show has kicked things into an even higher gear. Recent funding of $125 million in the Farm Bill and millions more from growers and other sources are putting serious horsepower behind the race to find answers.

During the Show, we heard about some amazing science at work like antimicrobials that kill the HLB bacteria, RNAi technology that will disrupt the psyllid, and much more. We are getting closer to answers.

Finally, I left the Florida Citrus Show with a sense that this industry is as united as ever to win this war against HLB. Growers, researchers, allied industry, even consumers — we are all in this together.

Topics: , ,

Leave a Reply

Citrus Stories
CitrusBiocontrols 2015: Exhibition Sneak Preview
February 25, 2015
We take a look inside the exhibit hall at the Biocontrols 2015 Conference & Tradeshow. Read More
CitrusNew App Helps Identify Insects, Diseases, And Nutrient Deficiencies
February 24, 2015
Spensa Technologies launches app that helps growers take control of pests and improve soil nutrients. Read More
CitrusPacked Political Agenda On Tap For Florida Farmers
February 23, 2015
The Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association’s board of directors are working on a number of key issues that will be front-burner throughout 2015. Read More
CitrusWest Coast Governors Call For End To Port Labor Impasse
February 19, 2015
U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez helps mediate discussions between dockworkers and port operators. Read More
CitrusCompanion Biological Fungicide Now OMRI Listed
February 19, 2015
The biological fungicide from Growth Products is now registered for use in organic production. Read More
Varieties & RootstocksExperimental Florida Mandarins Measure Up
February 19, 2015
Variety display day results show Florida citrus research and development is on the right track. Read More
Insect & Disease UpdateScientists Cue Up 3D Printing In Quest To Quash Citrus Greening
February 18, 2015
Multidimensional technology used to build “SmartTrap” for vector of the disease. Read More
The Latest
Citrus18 Must-Have Apps For GenNext Growers
March 1, 2015
We asked about your favorite mobile applications, and here's what you had to say. Read More
FNV logo
CitrusPMA Announces Funding For Major Produce Marketing Progr…
February 26, 2015
The produce industry is getting into brand marketing in a big way. The Produce Marketing Association (PMA) has announced the launch of a new promotional campaign - FNV - designed to take a page from the marketing strategies of big-money consumer brands like Nike and Apple. Read More
CitrusFDA, Federal Partners Develop New Method For Attributin…
February 25, 2015
Data was analyzed from nearly 1,000 outbreaks to assess which categories of foods were most responsible for making people sick. Read More
CitrusBiocontrols 2015: Exhibition Sneak Preview
February 25, 2015
We take a look inside the exhibit hall at the Biocontrols 2015 Conference & Tradeshow. Read More
CitrusNew App Helps Identify Insects, Diseases, And Nutrient …
February 24, 2015
Spensa Technologies launches app that helps growers take control of pests and improve soil nutrients. Read More
CitrusPacked Political Agenda On Tap For Florida Farmers
February 23, 2015
The Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association’s board of directors are working on a number of key issues that will be front-burner throughout 2015. Read More
CitrusWest Coast Governors Call For End To Port Labor Impasse
February 19, 2015
U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez helps mediate discussions between dockworkers and port operators. Read More
CitrusCompanion Biological Fungicide Now OMRI Listed
February 19, 2015
The biological fungicide from Growth Products is now registered for use in organic production. Read More
CitrusNew Desalination Technology May Be The Answer To Califo…
February 18, 2015
Researchers plan to address concerns with a process that will examine ways to turn seawater into drinkable water. Read More
David Holden
CitrusBiopesticides, Biostimulants Show Results In Fruits And…
February 18, 2015
From biostimulants in celery and avocado to biopesticides in citrus and strawberries, consultant David Holden conducts in-the-field research that attests to the effectiveness of biocontrols. Read More
CitrusMegadrought In The West Predicted By End Of The Century
February 18, 2015
Lowering greenhouse gases will reduce risk, scientists say. Read More
CitrusIRS Change Could Pay Off In More Citrus Plantings
February 17, 2015
Florida Citrus Mutual is pushing a proposal forward that will allow growers to directly write off putting new trees in the ground. Read More
CitrusFlorida Citrus Poised For A Comeback
February 12, 2015
About halfway through the 2014-2015 season, and the crop could go either way. Read More
CitrusTier 4 Regulations Pique Propane Interest
February 12, 2015
New rules are extending to non-road applications like irrigation engines. Read More
CitrusSearch Is On For The Next Miss Florida Citrus
February 11, 2015
Pre-Miss America pageant makes its return offering contestants a chance to represent the industry and further their education. Read More
CitrusIs The ‘Agripocalypse’ Nearing? [Opinion]
February 10, 2015
Recent report indicates time is not on agriculture's side. Action is needed now to keep future growers engaged. Read More
CitrusFlorida Citrus Crop Holding On
February 10, 2015
Updated USDA forecast shows no change in orange and grapefruit yield. Read More
CitrusAgriculture Among Top Paying College Degrees Of 2015
February 9, 2015
Report reveals good news for graduates looking to make some green in farming. Read More