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Organic Center launches major research effort to fight citrus greening

To try to answer the threat of citrus greening, The Organic Center has kicked off a major multi-year study and fundraising campaign to find organic solutions to ward off citrus greening and help organic citrus growers fight the deadly disease without resorting to dangerous chemicals or genetic engineering.

The Organic Center, an independent non-profit educational and research organization operating under the administrative auspices of the Organic Trade Association (OTA), is launching a comprehensive and high-profile drive to raise its target of $310,000 for its three-year study, using its presence on social media to spread the message. For the first time in its history, The Organic Center is inviting individuals to help the effort by donations through crowdfunding at

The American appetite for organic fresh citrus and citrus juice is big and growing. According to recent statistics compiled by OTA and the fresh fruit industry, organic fresh fruit sales in 2013 (with citrus ranking among the most popular of organic fruits) grew some 24 percent and organic citrus juice sales rose 26 percent, benefiting both organic citrus growers and health-minded consumers. That growth could be stalled by citrus greening.

The lack of research on organic control of citrus greening means that practices not compatible with organic management are being considered. For example, mandatory sprays of synthetic pesticides have been proposed as a control method in California, but no organic alternatives are identified as substitutes for the spray regimes.

The UNFI grant will be applied to a three-year research project being led by The Organic Center, in collaboration with University of Florida entomologist Michael Rogers and Ben McLean, vice president and director of research for Uncle Matt's Organic, to find holistic organic solutions to controlling citrus greening.

Uncle Matt's Organic has been using a four-pronged organic approach to fight citrus greening for more than a year, and results have been positive. The approach involves biological controls, application of the mineral nutrition boron, slow-release nitrogen fertilizer, and spraying with botanical oils.

McLean is optimistic that the lessons learned from his orchard and the additional research now made possible by the grant will help organic growers around the nation live with the disease and keep it under control through safe, organic strategies.

Meyer of UNFI hopes this first grant will encourage others to help organic growers fight the disease. "My hope is that everyone in the community comes on board and gives something to support this valuable research," said Meyer.


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