The Citrus Research and Field Trial (CRAFT) Foundation Inc. is in its second year of operation. CRAFT Foundation Executive Director Kristen Carlson gave a program update during the recent Florida Citrus Show.
CRAFT was designed to work as a cooperative effort between growers and researchers in order to provide examples of economically feasible production management practices and programs for Florida growers to utilize in the HLB era.
During CRAFT Cycle One, participants worked with the Technical Working Group and staff to finalize their experimental designs. Round one of the CRAFT application process ran from September to October 2019 and garnered 43 viable projects.
The application period for Cycle Two, a continuance of the program, ended in September 2020. According to Carlson, Cycle Two has seen great participation, including repeat participants from Cycle One.
“That really shows some regard for the program … We were heartened that we had people wanting to come back and do projects in Cycle Two,” she said.
Trees for the program are currently being planted. Carlson expects close to 4,700 acres total in the ground for Cycle Two.
For both cycles, grower participants were organized within subgroups for project designs. Each of the projects fall into one of the five testable categories:
- Rootstock scion trials
- Tree and soil nutrition
- Pest management
Following completion of planting, growers are expected to report production data in real time or at least quarterly into the U.S Department of Agriculture-CRAFT Data Portal. According to Carlson, the most important measure of success will be the fruit production reported by the grower.
On the horizon, the CRAFT Foundation’s goal is to keep collecting standardized data and fill any important data holes. Carlson predicts analysis from the projects will begin in four to six years. She also mentioned that the CRAFT Foundation model could expand to citrus-growing areas of California and Texas.
The 2021 Legislature has funded $5 million to large-scale field trials, expanding authority to spend in new areas of inquiry.
“There’s been such high grower interest for CRAFT that there is a clamoring for Cycle Three,” Carslon reported.
New areas of inquiry for Cycle Three projects could include mechanical harvesting, new rootstock/scion combinations for HLB tolerance, production systems for new trees, and crop pressures related to HLB.
Growers can watch for updates and Cycle Three announcements on the CRAFT Foundation website.