The Citrus Research and Development Foundation (CRDF) agreed March 24 to seek very focused research projects that will answer growers’ questions about proper nutrition in the face of HLB. The questions were formulated by CRDF’s Nutrition Working Group, a panel of growers, scientists and others.
FOCUS ON NUTRITION
“We know it’s (nutrition) important and we have to get it right because we don’t have money to waste,” said CRDF Chief Operating Officer Rick Dantzler. CRDF on April 1 will issue a request for proposals (RFP) from researchers in three categories. The categories are soil nutrient applications versus foliar applications; mode of soil fertilization (for instance, controlled-release fertilizer versus conventional fertilizer); and nutrition’s impact on fruit quality.
Researchers will have 30 days to respond to the RFP, and their responses will be reviewed by CRDF’s Scientific Advisory Board and appropriate committees, which are comprised of growers. “When we see something we really like, we’ll request a full proposal,” Dantzler said.
Dantzler announced that CRDF and three partners have agreed to continue funding Bayer Crop Science research on HLB for the last six months of this year, at a cost of up to $421,000 each. CRDF and others have previously paid Bayer $12.6 million, with most of that coming from CRDF, for three years of research through this June.
The other partners committed to funding the project through the end of this year are the California Citrus Research Board, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo. Dantzler said the partners hope a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant will fund the Bayer work after 2020. Bayer is working to develop a plant defense modulator that causes trees to switch on their natural defense mechanisms against HLB, as well as compounds that will kill the HLB bacteria.
Some CRDF board members expressed optimism that Gov. Ron DeSantis will approve the Florida Legislature’s recent allocation of $8 million for CRDF in the coming year. The budget will be under tight scrutiny, but DeSantis recommended the CRDF funding to the Legislature.
The Legislature stipulated that $3 million of the allocation support large-scale field trials. Dantzler said that $3 million will likely support the Citrus Research and Field Trial (CRAFT) program. CRAFT will reimburse growers for some costs involved in planting blocks where specific HLB research will be conducted.
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