The 2008-2009 season will hopefully go down as the year the Florida citrus industry took the first major step toward winning the battle against greening. Not that significant efforts have preceded, but this year growers stepped up and funded research projects to the tune of nearly $20 million.
A New Day
When you think about the fact that traditionally the box tax council would fund citrus research projects with a couple million dollars, this year’s massive injection of new monies shows it is a new day for Florida citrus. We have some of the best agricultural scientists and bioengineers in the world working on this problem, which makes me believe we are heading down the right path. When we find that answer, a new organization called the Florida Citrus Research & Development Foundation will help to get it in growers’ hands more quickly. Their job is to bridge the gap between academia and commercialization. See this story for more details. I can’t emphasize the importance of the new foundation enough, because it is a statement that this is not business as usual. The industry can’t afford to wait for the normal research and development process of science to address greening.
Some early research projects are already benefiting growers, including the recent registrations of a number of pesticides for low-volume applications to control the psyllid. This has the potential to save growers millions of dollars in reduced application costs. I am told that growers will likely save more money in reduced application costs than they invested in the research necessary to get the required label changes. In addition, the citrus greening bacteria’s genome was sequenced this year and promises to open new doors to scientific breakthroughs.
The recent signs of economic recovery have been called “green shoots” by the media — symbolizing new growth in the economy. I see green shoots popping up all around as these research projects get underway and new ones get started. My belief is these green shoots will blossom into a real breakthrough that will guarantee the long-term viability of the Florida citrus industry. Maybe quicker than you think.