Researchers with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) are helping solve long-time problems with new ideas. As oranges and other citrus crops muster more than $8 billion for Florida annually, they must consider citrus greening, a disastrous disease first identified in 2005 that is ravaging the state’s citrus industry.
Last year, UF was awarded $10.5 million to develop new non-transgenic citrus varieties that resist the greening pathogen. While researchers work around the clock to fight back against greening before the state’s citrus economy experiences a near-total collapse, greening isn’t the only problem for which state agricultural leaders are seeking solutions.
Pests, fungus, and the changing climate are only a few of the challenges that farmers face on a daily basis. All of these threaten the economic balance of the industry and, moreover, the financial situation for individual farmers, many of whom literally bank their properties on the outcome of this year’s crop.
“How do we maintain our agriculture base that we have in Florida?” asks Stephen Gran, Hillsborough County extension director at the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research & Education Center in Balm. “One way is by improving the economics of the industry. We do this through increasing efficiency, decreasing environmental impact, and increasing the economic prosperity: the only way to maintain agricultural use in Florida is by maintaining profitability.”