Program to Provide HLB-Tolerant Trees

Jim Rogers Florida Citrus Commission, Florida Department of Citrus, HLB Management

The Florida Citrus Commission (FCC) on May 18 received an update on a propagation program intended to quickly produce and commercialize trees showing tolerance or resistance to HLB disease, also known as citrus greening. The program will focus on the Donaldson tree and other escaped trees. The Donaldson is a tree at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Whitmore Farm that is producing oranges abundantly and appears healthy despite being infected with HLB.

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Donaldson tree

Florida Department of Citrus (FDOC) Executive Director Shannon Shepp provided the update. The propagation program would be funded through $1 million in nonrecurring state general revenue funds, pending approval by Gov. Ron DeSantis. The funds are for the purpose of entering into agreements which increase the production of trees that show tolerance or resistance to HLB, and to commercialize technologies that produce tolerance or resistance to HLB in trees. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) has a companion appropriation to expand programs and greenhouse space to accommodate FDOC agreements.

In order to expedite the process, FDOC staff is working with other industry groups to bring proposals for agreements to the FCC for approval as soon as the funds are available. The other groups are Florida Citrus Mutual, Citrus Research and Field Trial Foundation, New Varieties Development and Management Corporation, FDACS’ Division of Plant Industry and citrus nurseries.

Shepp also provided an update on the Donaldson tree and associated timelines from tissue culture to propagation, which would span more than two years.

Soon after the meeting, FCC Chairman Steve Johnson reported that the propagation program is expected to begin immediately once funds are available. “It is exciting to see that work is already underway on something we all are hoping will be helpful in our fight against citrus greening,” stated Johnson. “As we patiently await updates on this and other research, we continue to push forward with promoting Florida citrus to consumers.”

Source: Florida Department of Citrus

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