Scott Angle, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources, began the educational session during the Florida Citrus Industry Annual Conference with a message of urgency. He recognized the critical threat posed by HLB and said science could catch up to the problem.
“Plant sciences are advancing globally at almost the speed of light right now. A lot of that is being driven by artificial intelligence,” Angle said. “The University of Florida is probably the world’s leader right now in agricultural artificial intelligence. A lot of things have come together just recently to enhance, promote and speed up the pace of change.”
Angle noted these advances could help turn the corner on HLB but acknowledged it has been a long battle.
“I wish we had made more progress in the past 10 years. HLB is a very difficult challenge,” he said. “I have never seen anything like this in my agricultural career, and I have been in this for decades … I think it is almost $2 billion spent globally over the past 10 years. There has never been an agricultural issue where we have spent that much money and are still battling the problem.”
Angle said institutions like UF/IFAS have moved at the “speed of academia” in the past while building on layer upon layer of research developed over time. But, with HLB, that approach is not enough. Researchers need to attempt multiple shots in seeking solutions to the problem. While not all will be successful, the one or two that are successful will be worth the effort. He cited trunk injection as a success but stressed that work can’t stop there.
“We are continuing to work with (the Citrus Research and Development Foundation) and industry leaders to come up with plans to speed up the number of shots on goal. Hopefully within the next few weeks, we will be rolling out more concrete plans (of how to speed up research progress),” Angle said.
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