By Frank Giles
Citrus growers and industry stakeholders gathered in Bonita Springs last week for the Florida Citrus Industry Annual Conference. After being sidelined the previous two years due to COVID-19, the conference drew a record crowd of more than 500 registered attendees.
The event, hosted by Florida Citrus Mutual, was packed with educational programming and meetings for various industry groups. In addition, the 2022 Citrus Achievement Award trophy was presented to Kristen Carlson during the conference’s Industry Luncheon. Carlson played a critical role in developing the structure for the Citrus Research and Field Trials (CRAFT) program. CRAFT seeks to collect standardized and usable data on grower approaches to mitigate HLB in their groves. It also is a responsible for nearly 5,000 acres of new citrus plantings in Florida. For more than 20 years the award, sponsored by Florida Citrus Mutual, has honored individuals who have been outstanding advocates on behalf the state’s citrus industry.
The Citrus Research and Development Foundation (CRDF) held its June board meeting during the event. The much-anticipated meeting was the first after growers voted in favor continuing a research order, which allows growers to tax their production to fund research projects mostly aimed at finding solutions to HLB.
With the taxing mechanism confirmed, the CRDF board of directors debated, recommended and voted on the tax rate, which has been 3 cents per box (the maximum rate) for the past several years. After considerable discussion, the board recommend and voted that the rate be reduced to 2 cents per box. Board members noted this reduction in revenues (about 33%) will force CRDF to be laser-focused directing funds toward research projects that will have near-term results in the fight against HLB.
The conference educational program provided growers with updates on ways to address HLB right now or in the near-term. Two private companies provided updates on progress of making their products commercially available to growers. One product (Vismax) is a novel peptide material that triggers a citrus tree’s defense against HLB. The other product (ReMedium) is a formulation of oxytetracycline and a mechanism to inject (FLexInject) the antibiotic into citrus tree trunks to kill the HLB bacteria. More on these products and other educational program highlights coming in future posts.
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