Citrus Research Facility Opening Set

Len WilcoxCalifornia Corner, Research

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Sept. 26 will be the official opening day for a new bio-safety citrus research facility at the University of California, Riverside (UCR). A ribbon-cutting ceremony and other activities are scheduled to highlight the day. Members of the California Citrus Research Foundation, California Citrus Mutual (CCM) and the Citrus Research Board will be in attendance.

The facility was funded by California citrus growers and others in private industry to help combat huanglongbing (HLB), also known as citrus greening disease. It is the result of a three-year cooperative effort of UCR and California citrus growers. Scientists will use the $8 million facility to seek new ways to protect California’s $3.3 billion citrus industry from HLB.

Since HLB is highly contagious, a bio-secure facility will allow more study while preventing accidental spread of the disease as a result of the work.

The facility has long been recognized as needed at the UCR campus. While substantial research into controlling HLB in citrus is happening in Florida and at UC Davis, the Florida studies are conducted under soil and weather conditions that are specific to Florida. The UC Davis facilities are working on serious issues in other commodities, and room for citrus studies is limited. Therefore, several years ago, UC Riverside applied for federal funds to build the facility. However, federal money has not been made available for the project. In 2016, CCM informed its member growers of the need.

“We felt that if we were going to protect ourselves, we better take the lead,” Joel Nelsen, past president of CCM, said in a 2016 interview. Working diligently with citrus industry leaders, Nelsen was able to secure funding for the facility.

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Len Wilcox

Correspondent at Large for Citrus Industry Magazine and AgNet West