Editor’s Note (Feb. 20, 2019): The name of the program has been changed from the Grower Replanting Initiative Program to the Citrus Research and Field Trial Program.
According to Florida Citrus Mutual CEO Mike Sparks, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has given “concept approval” for massive Florida grower field trials to determine what existing research might work in the face of HLB. Many details of this Grower Replanting Initiative Program (GRIP) remain to be worked out.
“This program is to take your existing research on HLB,” Sparks said. “What did we learn if you’re going to replant? What rootstock would you use? What nutrition, what inputs would you put into the grove? How would you control the psyllid? What’s your best chance to plant a new citrus grove in the state of Florida that will get our production back to where it was prior to HLB?” He described GRIP as “basically grower field trials … that could exceed 5,000 acres.”
Sparks said growers will plant 20- or 50-acre new blocks around the state. “There will be a program for smaller growers that might not replant 25 acres, but instead might do some resets of existing groves.”
“A majority of the dollars will be funded by the USDA,” Sparks said, adding that “it could be an $8 million program from the feds” and “the state of Florida might be able to supplement that by another $4 million.” He said growers will also “have skin in the game” by bearing some costs of the program. “There will be some financial reimbursement for growers who participate” but the amount isn’t known yet, Sparks added. “We’re actively, aggressively, right now trying to seek state general revenue dollars that would supplement it,” he explained. “It might be as early as July 1 (that) the program could be authorized and new trees planted.”
A grower committee will be appointed to oversee the program, and researchers will provide technical oversight of the field trials, Sparks said. The research entities that will participate haven’t been determined, but he expects the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, USDA and the Citrus Research and Development Foundation might be involved. “Even though there hasn’t been a specific assignment, or a contract written, I think everybody will be participating at some level,” he said.
Hear more from Sparks:
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