Opinion: A Blueprint For Greening Research

The release of the National Academies’ report, “Strategic Planning for the Florida Citrus Industry: Addressing Citrus Greening Disease,” marks an important milestone in the citrus industry’s battle against greening and provides key strategic recommendations for Florida growers.

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The report is the culmination of an initiative that started in January 2008 when the Florida Citrus Commission (FCC) passed a resolution asking FDOC to respond to the urgent and immediate need to support greening research on behalf of Florida growers. FDOC partnered with the National Academies of Science, the most prestigious research organization in the U.S., to find solutions for citrus diseases and has reallocated nearly $20 million to date for research projects.

This partnership yielded a comprehensive blueprint, including 23 specific recommendations, to fight greening that will require “an unprecedented degree of cooperation among producers, processors, government officials, and scientists,” states the report.

One Step At A Time

Over the past two years, through the collaborative efforts of the FDOC and the industry, important milestones in the disease research process have been established and achieved. These critical steps, several of which also are found in the National Academies’ recommendations, include:

• Securing [citrus disease] research investment management
• Establishing a quality-control system
• Accelerating the discovery process
• Creating a commercialization strategy
• Advocating with regulatory organizations, growers, and the public.

All activities to date were designed to protect the interest of the Florida grower and to ensure that dollars were spent as efficiently and effectively as possible. FDOC provided accountability through open communication with all stakeholders.

Support Structure

The National Academies’ report closes the loop on the FCC and FDOC commitment to spearhead greening research management and funding. As the Citrus Research and Development Foundation takes on the leadership role in the battle against citrus disease, we will fully support its efforts to coordinate and consolidate industry implementation of the National Academies’ strategic recommendations.

The report also provides our industry with a firm basis for state and federal policymakers to continue and increase the necessary long-term funding to support the future of Florida citrus. Citrus provides an economic benefit that is worth preserving.

Greening is undoubtedly the most serious challenge facing our industry. We can, however, take heart in the report’s final conclusion: “However deficient our current arsenal is for fighting HLB (huanglongbing), the potential for progress against this disease remains distinctively hopeful.” Armed with a battle plan, together we will fight to ensure the future sustainability of Florida’s citrus industry.

The entire report can be viewed at NationalAcademies.org.