AMELIA ISLAND, FL — With the Florida citrus market decimated by HLB, also known as citrus greening disease, to the tune of more than $4.5 billion in crops and some 8,300 jobs lost, a new private-public partnership announced at the 70th annual Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association convention at the Ritz-Carlton resort, here, will provide a significant boost for research.
Bayer CropScience is collaborating with the Florida Specialty Crop Foundation to create a three-year grant program for citrus greening research. The $200,000 grant was awarded to the state’s Citrus Research & Development Foundation at a private dinner.
Citrus greening, also known as Huanglongbing, is a devastating disease affecting the nation’s orange and other citrus crops. Healthy citrus trees can produce fruit for multiple decades; however, once infected with HLB, trees can yield discolored, inedible fruit and can die in as little as five years. A single infected tree can affect an entire grove in two years.
“With this new initiative we continue our focus on finding innovative alternatives to improve the sustainability and economic value of crops from the field all the way to consumers,” said Rob Schrick, horticulture business lead, Bayer CropScience. “Florida Specialty Crop Foundation and CRDF are natural partners for us in this effort, as both organizations have the citrus expertise and outstanding research capabilities needed to combat this serious disease.”
In its first year, the grant will support CRDF’s existing research on HLB and the tiny Asian citrus psyllid that spreads the disease. Over the remaining two years, the collaboration partners will convene to discuss the state of the industry and determine appropriate research projects.
More than 70 percent of U.S. households regularly consume orange juice and other citrus foods, and approximately 80 percent of U.S. orange juice comes from Florida oranges.
“Bayer CropScience is dedicated to providing innovative solutions for the food chain,” said Florida Specialty Crop Foundation Executive Director Sonia Tighe. “We are honored that Bayer continues to partner with our foundation to meet the needs of growers and the citrus industry.”
For the past 150 years, Bayer has been committed to their mission of providing ”Science For A Better Life,” and this citrus greening research grant is another example of that commitment. In addition to the three-year grant, Bayer also donated $10,000 to Farmers Feeding Florida, a food recovery program instituted by the Florida Association of Food Banks. FFF works to provide much-needed relief to growers and packers left with excess produce and Florida residents in need of healthy food. Bayer’s donation will help to further FFF’s mission and support the Florida food industry.