Bayer-CRDF HLB Effort Updated

Ernie NeffCRDF, HLB Management

Rick Dantzler

The Citrus Research and Development Foundation (CRDF) in 2017 agreed to partner with Bayer Crop Science for three years in an effort to develop new technologies to combat HLB. On Dec. 3, a Bayer representative provided a progress update to the CRDF board of directors. CRDF Chief Operating Officer Rick Dantzler discusses the history and possible future of the endeavor.

“It is the most expensive (project) in CRDF’s history; it’s a $12.3-million project,” Dantzler says. Most of the money was provided by CRDF, but some private sector entities also invested in the project. “It has two prongs. One is to try to develop a plant defense modulator, which would essentially switch on a plant’s natural defenses against HLB. The other is an antibacterial prong which seeks to find something that will actually kill the bacteria directly.”

Dantzler says Bayer is “very excited about a class of plant defense modulator. They call it the H class. They are developing it for citrus but it has efficacy” against diseases in other crops.

With only six months remaining in the project, Bayer will drop its focus on HLB in citrus and instead concentrate on the products’ use against diseases in other crops if it doesn’t receive additional CRDF funding. Dantzler says he understands that, since it can cost up to $250 million to bring a product to market. “Citrus is just simply not a big enough commodity to be able to be supported by Bayer if they’re (products) only going to be used in citrus.”

Dantzler says some members of CRDF’s Scientific Advisory Committee are “enthused about the plant defense modulator piece … They’re less enthused about the antibacterial prong.” But he says members of that committee have advised CRDF that “we are probably many, many years away from one of these products actually making it to the marketplace … The reality is, CRDF is not going to be able to continue funding this at the levels we have in the past. We are going to have to get additional funding partners. I have reached out to the California Research Board … I think they like it, too. To what extent they might be willing to participate I don’t yet know. The key to this is probably going to be federal funding.” Consequently, Dantzler expects he’ll soon ask the U.S. Department of Agriculture for perhaps $3 to $5 million per year for three to five years to fund continued Bayer research.

Dantzler says Bayer has “been very forthright” from the beginning about its intention not to continue a focus on HLB without continued funding. “I don’t think anyone questions that Bayer has given it all it has,” he says.

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About the Author

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large