HLB Research Focused on Near-Term Solutions

Jim Rogers HLB Management, Research

The urgency is high to find any solution to help citrus growers more effectively mitigate HLB. During the Florida Citrus Growers’ Institute this month, Citrus Research and Education Center director Michael Rogers gave a presentation that outlined the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) research projects aimed at finding short-term HLB solutions.

Michael Rogers amongst citrus trees at the CREC. Photo taken 02-02-21.

“We understand where the industry is and that we are in a time crunch to find solutions,” he said. “We get a lot of questions from growers about what we are working on and how we prioritize funding research projects.”

Funding comes from several different sources. These include agencies like the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the Citrus Research and Development Foundation (CRDF) and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. In some cases, private companies fund research to evaluate their potential solutions to HLB.

Rogers pointed out another important source of funding comes from the UF/IFAS Citrus Initiative, which provides direct legislative funds that have been earmarked for HLB research. The university has more discretion with these dollars because they are not tied to specific research proposals funded through USDA and CRDF. 

“We have talked to and taken advice from a lot of growers and industry stakeholders on what they think could make the most difference (fighting HLB) in the short term,” Rogers said.

HLB
Vein corking and blotchy mottle in HLB-affected leaves

According to Rogers, a meeting held in December 2019 in Washington, D.C., really helped home in what these short-term priorities should be. Researchers, funding agencies, government agencies and growers met to develop the top areas of short-term research over the next five years.

Rogers presented four of the top categories to attendees at the Florida Citrus Growers’ Institute:

Category One: Understanding citrus phloem biology and its interaction with HLB

Number of UF/IFAS-funded projects: 6 (2 USDA; 1 CRDF; 3 UF/IFAS Citrus Initiative)

Category Two: Evaluation of therapeutics and delivery methods

Number of UF/IFAS-funded projects: 13 (4 USDA; 3 CRDF; 4 private company; 3 UF/IFAS Citrus Initiative)

Category Three: Maintaining health of HLB-infected trees 

Number of UF/IFAS-funded projects: 21 (6 USDA; 7 CRDF; 4 private company; 4 UF/IFAS Citrus Initiative)

Category Four: Citrus nutrition and delivery methods

Number of UF/IFAS-funded projects: 13 (3 USDA; 4 CRDF; 2 private company; 4 UF/IFAS Citrus Initiative)

“Overall, there are 53 projects funded at UF/IFAS that come out of these four categories of focus,” Rogers said. “But that’s not all the research we are doing. We have at least 43 more funded projects that are looking for medium- to longer-term HLB solutions.”

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Frank Giles

Editor-in-Chief AgNet Media Publications

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