FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (FL Dept of Citrus) – Study Requested by Florida Department of Citrus
Bartow, Fla. (March 23, 2010) – In April 2009, the National Research Council of the National Academies, at the request of the Florida Department of Citrus (FDOC), formed the Committee on the Strategic Planning for the Florida Citrus Industry: Addressing Citrus Greening Disease (Huanglongbing or HLB). The Committee’s final report was issued today by the NRC to provide the Florida citrus industry and growers with strategic recommendations to combat citrus greening.
“This report is the culmination of efforts to support greening research initiated by a Florida Citrus Commission resolution in January of 2008,” stated Ken Keck, FDOC executive director. “The Florida Department of Citrus responded to the urgent and immediate need for research by partnering with the National Academies to identify promising greening research projects. We’ve reallocated nearly $20 million to date on research projects to yield potential solutions to greening and other diseases that threaten the future of the citrus industry.”
“The NRC brought together numerous scientific experts from around the globe to address greening on behalf of Florida Citrus growers,” said Bob Norberg, FDOC deputy executive director, research and operations. “The Strategic Planning for the Florida Citrus Industry: Addressing Citrus Greening Disease report, commissioned by FDOC, provides a comprehensive blueprint for the industry to solve citrus greening disease and ensure the industry’s future sustainability.”
The report contains 23 specific recommendations that will require coordination and cooperation from all industry participants in order for the Florida citrus industry to survive and prosper. Some recommendations are currently being implemented, such as the creation of a disease research coordinating body (Citrus Research Disease Foundation or CRDF).
Other recommendations, such as the creation of “Citrus Health Management Areas” are not currently in place and will require a high-level of grower cooperation to achieve.
Tom Jerkins, president of CRDF, added, “The NRC has provided a very comprehensive set of strategic recommendations for management and finding solutions for greening. Fortunately, the industry is well down the path of implementing some of the research recommendations. The CRDF will need to reexamine some of its priorities to make sure there is sufficient investment in the high pay off areas identified by the NRC. NRC research priorities include early greening detection, psyllid control and disease resistant plants.”
“Strategies recommended for improved management of greening will take an unusually high degree of grower cooperation and industry leadership to be successful,” Jerkins concluded.
Over the past two years, FDOC and industry established and achieved important milestones in the disease research process through collaborative efforts. These milestones, several of which are found in the NRC recommendations, include:
* Securing research investment management
o Created the Citrus Research and Development Foundation (CRDF) to professionally manage current and future citrus disease research projects as critical investments for Florida Citrus Industry sustainability.
* Establishing a quality control system
o In 2008, the FDOC contracted with NRC, an independent third party, to bring together expert citrus scientists to review and recommend new research proposals. Over 200 proposals were vetted with over 100 being funded. The CRDF has created a similar process for future proposals.
* Accelerating the discovery process
o Required research scientists to post quarterly progress reports online to provide ongoing status to industry stakeholders and facilitate collaboration.
* Creating a commercialization strategy
o Positioned CRDF to operate in an entrepreneurial manner and accelerate the commercialization of research discoveries.
* Advocating with regulatory organizations, growers and public
o Laid groundwork for regulatory organizations to hasten execution of research discoveries due to urgency and severity of greening threat. Prepared growers to accept risk and test new solutions.
“Throughout this process, the Florida Citrus Commission protected the interests of the Florida growers first and foremost,” emphasized Keck. “We promised to fund disease research in a timely and accountable manner. We solicited professional expertise to ensure that dollars were spent as efficiently and effectively as possible.”
“In addition, we provided accountability through complete transparency,” Keck added. “All activities were coordinated with other industry organizations and communicated to stakeholders.”
“The Strategic Planning for the Florida Citrus Industry: Addressing Citrus Greening Disease report closes the loop on the FCC and FDOC commitment to spearhead greening research management and funding,” Keck commented. “We look forward to the new leadership role of the CRDF in the battle against citrus disease and will fully support its efforts to coordinate and consolidate industry implementation of the NRC strategic recommendations. The NRC report also provides a firm basis for state and federal policymakers to continue and increase the necessary long term funding to help ensure the future of the Florida citrus industry.”
“Growers can take heart in the report’s conclusion, which states ‘However deficient is our current arsenal for fighting HLB, the potential for progress against this disease remains distinctly hopeful,’ ” Keck commented.
”The Strategic Planning for the Florida Citrus Industry: Addressing Citrus Greening Disease report and summary can be viewed at www.nationalacademies.org.
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