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Scientists set citrus greening priorities

During simultaneous meetings held by the Agriculture Research Service in Fort Pierce, Fla., and the National Academy of Sciences in West Palm Beach, researchers convening from key public research institutions in Florida, as well as from other states and countries, urged all citrus growers and industry participants to continue to work diligently and collaboratively to find solutions to potentially devastating citrus diseases, such as greening.

“We brought together 23 scientists, including plant pathologists, botanists, entomologists, microbiologists and others to offer the industry new perspective beyond that of the citrus research establishment,” says Robin Schoen, director of the Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources, National Research Council, NAS.

“Members of the NAS panel were astonished by the rapid spread and severe impact of greening in Florida to date. We realize that urgent and immediate attention is needed to address this situation so it does not escalate out of control.”

“We are pleased that the Florida Department of Citrus (FDOC) and the Florida citrus industry have engaged our scientific network and we look forward to continued international and multi-disciplinary cooperation to identify solutions,” Schoen adds.

“Our goal is to preserve the future of the citrus industry in Florida. We recognize the need for independent scientific experts to help Florida’s citrus teams identify the most effective and efficient way to solve greening,” says Bob Norberg, deputy executive director, research and operations, Florida Department of Citrus. “This joint meeting illustrates the willingness of the Florida scientific community to embrace new research directions as we move forward.”

Convening the NAS panel was the first step in a partnership between FDOC and NAS, the most prestigious scientific organization in the United States, to find solutions for greening and canker. In order to fund this intensive research process, the FDOC will shift a significant percentage of its budget from marketing programs to research efforts in the upcoming fiscal year beginning July 1, 2008.

Key research areas examined at the meetings included pathogens, psyllid, citrus host plant, and current and future cultural practices.

Following this meeting, the NAS expert panel will recommend research priorities and develop a comprehensive list of potential research projects for full funding, while simultaneously developing a long-range strategic research plan.

The Florida Citrus Production Research Advisory Council (FCPRAC) and the Florida Citrus Industry Research Coordinating Council (FCIRCC) are key partners in the research process. Both groups will be involved in determining critical research priorities and keeping constituents informed as discoveries unfold.

Through the FCPRAC Web reporting system, researchers will post real time updates for growers to access information and implement procedures quickly.

Ultimately, NAS will issue a report providing a blueprint for sustainable solutions to insure the continuation of the Florida citrus industry. This expert report is expected to be complete in June 2009.

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