Department of Citrus Discusses Priorities for Research Funds

Josh McGill Florida Citrus Commission, Florida Department of Citrus, Research

Photo by Josh McGill

The Florida Department of Citrus held a research and budget workshop on Oct. 4. Rosa Walsh, director of scientific research, presented an overview of the general funds received for research this fiscal year along with several possibilities for use of these funds for feedback from the Florida Citrus Commission (FCC).

Walsh reported that $1.65 million was received in general revenue funding for contracted services in new varieties development. Of that, $650,000 is recurring and has been committed to New Varieties Development & Management Corporation. The additional $1 million is non-recurring funds of which $360,000 has been committed to the Florida Citrus Research Foundation (Whitmore Farms). Additionally, a couple thousand dollars were committed for tree purchases for a small Donaldson field trial at the Whitmore Farm, leaving $635,000 to spend the rest of this year.

Walsh also shared that $2 million was received in general revenue funding in the Citrus Recovery Program this year. She provided an overview of different projects that can be supported with this funding, such as propagation of new varieties for research projects/small field trials, additional research field trials at the Whitmore Farm, juice quality evaluation of new varieties, small proof-of-concept research projects, and nursery funding for the propagations of new varieties to prepare increase materials. 

She presented the pre-proposals for the Citrus Recovery Program for FCC feedback as follows:

  • University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Plant Transformation Center – up to $1.6 million
  • UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center (CREC) CRISPR Lab expansion – up to $600,000
  • Propagation and characterization of HLB-tolerant transgenic lines – $200,000
  • Juvenility research project – Florida Citrus Research Foundation (UF/U.S. Department of Agriculture/Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services) – $100,000
  • Greenhouse and field trials for transgenic/CRISPR citrus testing – $300,000

Eric Triplett, UF/IFAS professor and chair of microbiology and cell science, presented the concept for the UF/IFAS Plant Transformation Center with two locations. The primary location will be at the UF campus in Gainesville, and it will have seven academic units in genome modifications. The other location will be at the CREC in Lake Alfred, led by Nian Wang. The efforts will be to speed up the breeding process by conducting evaluations and regulatory work in parallel. 

Triplett discussed the goals and justifications for the center. Some of the technologies that will be included in the center are agrobacterium-mediated, biolistic, protoplast, TALENS, CRISPR, RNAi, viral vector-mediated and others. The center will have a PhD-level director, a faculty steering committee to identify priorities, a working group and an external advisory board with citrus industry representation. Lastly, Triplett provided an overview of the different fundings being explored and what the next step would be in putting together something that is truly world class that directly addresses industry’s needs. 

Source: Florida Department of Citrus

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