Strong Support for Plant Transformation Center

Josh McGillBreeding, Florida Citrus Commission, Florida Department of Citrus

The Florida Citrus Commission (FCC) approved almost $1.05 million to support a University of Florida Plant Transformation Center that will develop methodologies and technologies to improve HLB resistance and tolerance in citrus.

Plant Transformation Center

The approval followed an overview of the center presented by Scott Angle, University of Florida (UF) senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources, who oversees the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS). For the first few years, the center will be mostly or solely focused on citrus, Angle said. But in the long run, the plan is to get some of the problems with HLB resolved and then start thinking about other citrus problems as well as other crop problems.

“There are over 300 crops grown in Florida and all could use a bit of transformation to make them more resistant to diseases and pests, improve their quality and improve their flavor,” said Angle. 

Angle added that as science, technology and the needs of the industry have changed over the years, now is the right time for the Plant Transformation Center. UF has been working closely with the industry for some time to get the center going. 

UF President Ben Sasse committed $2 million to jumpstart the Plant Transformation Center project, Angle reported. The Citrus Research and Development Foundation has also pledged support. UF has met with Florida Sen. Ben Albritton regarding long-term funding. Additionally, UF is considering redirecting some internal funds within IFAS that could be dedicated toward building greenhouses for the center.

There are three components to the Plant Transformation Center project, according to Angle:

  • Integration of artificial intelligence into the process
  • Traditional genetic engineering
  • Protein knowledge integration

Work will be done at both the UF campus in Gainesville and the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and
Education Center in Lake Alfred, Angle said.

The Plant Transformation Center was previously discussed in an Oct. 4 Florida Department of Citrus research and budget workshop.

Source: Florida Department of Citrus

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