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
Insect & Disease UpdateCalifornia’s Citrus Growers Face More Challenges Than Huanglongbing
August 27, 2015
As a kid growing up we all remember the arrival of Barnum & Bailey’s circus. The ads, the posters, the Read More
Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg
CitrusCounting Down The Top U.S. Colleges For Natural Resources And Conservation
August 25, 2015
STEM-fueled area of study presents wide field of opportunity for future grads. Read More
Charlotte's Web-medical marijuana in greenhouse
CitrusMedical Marijuana Endeavor Anything But Pipe Dream For Florida Nurseries
August 20, 2015
While applicants await fate for one of the five available licenses to weave ‘Charlotte’s Web,’ best-case-scenarios play out. Read More
CitrusSouth Florida Farmers Feted For Water Quality Standards
August 20, 2015
Marking 20 straight years of success, producers help Everglades Agricultural Area exceed phosphorus reduction goals. Read More
old world bollworm climbing on vegetation
CitrusOld World Bollworm A Potential New Pain For Florida Farmers
August 20, 2015
Growers in the Sunshine State on high alert as serious pest is detected for the first time in the U.S. outside of port interceptions. Read More
CitrusUSDA To Pour $20 Million Into Frozen Orange Juice
August 20, 2015
Section 32 bonus purchase program money to help move mountain of surplus inventory. Read More
Sugar Belle brand LB 8-9 orange tree
Varieties & RootstocksPriority High On Producing Proprietary Citrus Varieties
August 19, 2015
Whether it’s industry acceptance or a business necessity, the number of operations registering to grow exclusive selections is increasing. Read More
The Latest
CitrusFederal Judge Blocks Clean Water Rule
August 28, 2015
  According to RISE (Responsible Industry For A Sound Environment), a federal judge in North Dakota has blocked implementation of Read More
Golden Rice
CitrusAnti-GMO-Fueled Threats Force Reallocation Of Biotech E…
August 27, 2015
University of Florida officials say plans are to re-allocate a donation intended to improve the public’s understanding of science after Read More
money
CitrusMonsanto Drops Current Bid For Syngenta Acquisition
August 27, 2015
Even with a revised proposal that sweetened the pot to $46.2 billion, financial expectations still fall flat. Read More
Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg
CitrusCounting Down The Top U.S. Colleges For Natural Resourc…
August 25, 2015
STEM-fueled area of study presents wide field of opportunity for future grads. Read More
Charlotte's Web-medical marijuana in greenhouse
CitrusMedical Marijuana Endeavor Anything But Pipe Dream For …
August 20, 2015
While applicants await fate for one of the five available licenses to weave ‘Charlotte’s Web,’ best-case-scenarios play out. Read More
CitrusSouth Florida Farmers Feted For Water Quality Standards
August 20, 2015
Marking 20 straight years of success, producers help Everglades Agricultural Area exceed phosphorus reduction goals. Read More
old world bollworm climbing on vegetation
CitrusOld World Bollworm A Potential New Pain For Florida Far…
August 20, 2015
Growers in the Sunshine State on high alert as serious pest is detected for the first time in the U.S. outside of port interceptions. Read More
CitrusUSDA To Pour $20 Million Into Frozen Orange Juice
August 20, 2015
Section 32 bonus purchase program money to help move mountain of surplus inventory. Read More
CitrusMaps Show Impending Impact From WOTUS
August 19, 2015
Plots indicate expansion of EPA’s reach across Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Montana. Read More
branches covered in ice
CitrusWicked Winter Coming This Way Says Latest Farmer’s Alma…
August 17, 2015
Super El Niño-influenced weather patterns align to paint a less-than-pretty portrait. Read More
dripping orange
CitrusFeeling The Squeeze, Florida Citrus Taking Stock Of Fut…
August 12, 2015
A look back on the 2014-2015 citrus season reveals major economic questions, concerns. Read More
man trying to prevent from being boxed in by boxes
CitrusEconomic Progress A Threat To Box In Agriculture [Opini…
August 11, 2015
For growers, buffer zones, noise ordinances, nutrient runoff concerns, and sinkhole threats all are factors heightened with nearby neighbors. Instead of trying to beat them, why not join them? Read More
CitrusAlico Bucks Trend Related To Current Citrus Struggles
August 10, 2015
Despite the 2014-2015 season yielding smallest crop in nearly 50 years, Florida-based company boasts marked growth in harvest, sales. Read More
Keith Jones
CitrusBiopesticide Industry Alliance Names Keith Jones As New…
August 10, 2015
The Biopesticide Industry Alliance (BPIA) announced its selection of Keith Jones as its new executive director. Mr. Jones is an Read More
Immokalee< FL, Farm and Grove aerial view
CitrusFlorida Farmland Remains Hot Commodity
August 5, 2015
Recent multimillion-dollar deal involving Immokalee citrus grove is among several high-acreage, high-dollar transactions. Read More
CitrusResearchers Say Drones Will Play A Major Role In Farmin…
August 4, 2015
Texas A&M AgriLife researchers say the technology will offer growers precise information about their crops. Read More
woman smashing an alarm clock with a hammer
CitrusDon’t Become A Time Crunch Casualty
July 31, 2015
Finding the balance between work life and home life is easier said than done for GenNext Growers. Read More
money
CitrusBankrupt Florida Farm To Yield Plenty Of Land, Equipmen…
July 30, 2015
As many as seven different buyers could be part of this Chapter 11 proceeding. Read More