Citrus Research and Field Trial Program Update

Ernie NeffResearch

CRDF
research
Rick Dantzler

A multimillion-dollar federal program to establish thousands of acres of citrus research field trials in Florida has undergone significant changes in recent months. The Citrus Research and Development Foundation (CRDF) spent much time on May 21 hearing about new developments in the Citrus Research and Field Trial (CRAFT) program. CRDF Chief Operating Officer Rick Dantzler summarizes developments in the timing and administration of the program since it was announced earlier this year.

Originally, plans were for CRDF, which is a direct support organization (DSO) of the University of Florida (UF), to obtain the funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and administer CRAFT. But CRDF learned it can’t administer the program because UF was fined a significant amount as a result of a UF DSO administering a federal program in the health care arena, Dantzler says.

Now, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) has been approached about administering the program. “They’ve (FDACS) been receptive; that’s probably what’s going to happen,” Dantzler says. “There may still be a way for CRDF to be involved in some capacity; I hope so.”

Original hopes were that some CRAFT plantings would begin this year. But Florida Citrus Mutual CEO Mike Sparks told the CRDF board of directors that plantings likely won’t begin until 2020.

The CRAFT concept “is to assist growers in a new set of integrated management practices so we can determine which recipes work the best for growing citrus in each of the citrus-growing regions of Florida,” Dantzler says. Indications have been that the USDA would fund the program for a minimum of $8 million.

Dantzler says CRDF also received an $8 million appropriation from the state Legislature this year. “We were told to spend $2 million on large-scale field trials … the intention is for us to spend this $2 million with CRAFT,” he says.

According to Dantzler, 2,000 acres of new plantings would be established in the first year of CRAFT, followed by 3,000 acres in the second year.

The CRAFT demonstration project would be “larger than anything that’s been attempted before” in Florida, Dantzler says. “And it would give us a better sense of what’s really working and what’s not.”

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Ernie Neff

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large