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Citrus industry receives funds for breeding, soils

Congress approves $1.5 million, Farm Bureau $5 million for cultivation.

Tim Hearden, Western Farm Press

April 15, 2024

2 Min Read
Oranges.Tim Hearden

Help is on the way for the cultivation of citrus fruit in California, from both public and industry sources.

The California Farm Bureau recently announced it is making $5 million available for growers to implement health-soils practices, while Congress is providing an extra $1.5 million for breeding research.

The healthy soils funding was made possible after the state Department of Food and Agriculture awarded money from the Healthy Soils Program Block Grant to the California Bountiful Foundation, the California Citrus Quality Council and Xerces Society. The Bountiful Foundation is the CFB’s research and education arm.

Grants of up to $200,000 are offered to growers for farm projects such as cover cropping, nutrient management and pollinator-friendly hedgerow plants, the CFB explained. The program is set to support 20 to 45 projects over three years.

“Our goal at the California Bountiful Foundation is to make it very easy for citrus growers to enter into the program and implement healthy soils management practices,” foundation director Amrith Gunasekara said. “We see ourselves as a one-stop shop where citrus growers will get a very high degree of service through this program.”

A key aspect of the program is to aide socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, women, military veterans and small-scale farms, foundation officials said. Citrus growers in Fresno, Imperial, Kern, Kings, Riverside, San Bernardino, Santa Barbara, Tulare, San Diego, Placer and Ventura counties are encouraged to enroll.

“In supporting our growers with conservation expertise and financial support, we are setting the stage for sustaining agriculture and building a resilient citrus industry for well into the future,” CFB President Shannon Douglass said.

Citrus breeding program

Meanwhile, the $1.5 million allocated by Congress will support the new citrus breeding program in Parlier, Calif., which received $1 million in federal funds last year. The program, which also receives $500,000 annually from the Citrus Research Board, focuses on fresh-market citrus.

Funding will go toward research and development of high-quality, superior citrus selections well suited to California growing regions, changing climatic pressures, consumer taste preferences, and resistance to pest and diseases, such as huanglongbing, according to the research board.

The California program is an expansion of the existing national USDA Agricultural Research Service citrus breeding program located in Fort Pierce, Fla., which is focused primarily on varieties that are optimized for Florida growing conditions.

Work done through the Florida program has resulted in new varieties with higher yields, increased disease resistance, improved color, and a longer shelf life.

The California program at the USDA ARS field station in Parlier works with the breeding program at the University of California, Riverside.

For information on the California Bountiful program, visit https://californiabountifulfoundation.com/.

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