At 100th anniversary, CREC director touts progress toward disease-resistant varieties

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As more than 500 people gathered Wednesday at the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center to celebrate the facility’s 100-year anniversary, they commemorated many longstanding partnerships between UF/IFAS and citrus growers. They also learned about future solutions that will help produce top-notch fruit and juice.

Among the speakers were W. Kent Fuchs, UF president; Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources and Michael Rogers, director of the UF/IFAS Citrus REC in Lake Alfred, Florida.

Rogers emphasized the many relationships between UF/IFAS research and Extension faculty and the citrus industry, adding that most major discoveries require grower participation. He also thanked the numerous endowments that support the CREC mission.

Rogers stressed the importance of new disease-resistant varieties that UF/IFAS researchers are breeding.

“New tolerant rootstock/scion combinations from UF/IFAS will bridge the gap until true citrus greening-resistant varieties are developed,” he said. “These new varieties offer real hope for the Florida citrus industry.”

Nearly 30 researchers showed growers their latest scientific work to help ensure growers produce top-quality fruit and juice.

Growers got a chance to tour a private grove run by Tropicana, in which UF/IFAS-bred scions and rootstocks are tested.

Other people stopped by the lab of Nian Wang, a UF/IFAS associate professor of microbiology and cell science, whose gene-editing techniques show promise in leading to disease-tolerant citrus varieties.

Those who wanted to see how bugs infect citrus went to the labs of Lukasz Stelinski and Kirsten Pelz-Stelinski, both associate professors of entomology. They spoke about how they hope to control the Asian citrus psyllid from transmitting the bacterium that causes greening from infecting citrus trees.

Michelle Danyluk, an associate professor of food science and human nutrition, showed how the Food Safety Modernization rules might apply to citrus growers and their operations.

Megan Dewdney, associate professor of plant pathology, introduced growers to the pathogens that cause the most common citrus diseases. Pathogen detection is the first step toward managing plant diseases.

Arnold Schumann, a professor of soil and water sciences, showed how the system called Citrus Under Protective Screen (CUPS) is designed to grow high-quality, disease-free fresh fruit, while excluding psyllids and other pests and diseases.

Overall, said Rogers, the future for citrus looks bright, thanks to hard-working researchers and resilient growers.

“The future looks exciting for citrus as we continue to make new breakthroughs that will deliver greening-resistant plants in the not-too-distant future,” Rogers said.

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By: Brad Buck, 352-294-3303, bradbuck@ufl.edu

The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. Visit the UF/IFAS web site at ifas.ufl.edu and follow us on social media at @UF_IFAS.

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