University of Florida Strengthening Citrus

The Florida citrus industry, directly and indirectly, generates approximately 45,000 full-time jobs with a total economic impact of approximately $8.6 billion per year in the state.

Florida’s citrus industry has lost approximately half of its $1.5 billion on-tree fruit value in just 10 years due to citrus greening (Huanglongbing), a destructive disease that causes trees to produce small, bitter, undesirable fruit that drop prematurely and cannot be sold. The disease has reached epidemic proportions — 95 percent of commercial groves are infected in every Florida county. Since 2005, Florida’s citrus production has shrunk by more than 50 percent, which caused billions of dollars of damage to one of the state’s primary crops. A tiny insect, the Asian citrus psyllid, carries the bacterial pathogen. The disease has spread rapidly to Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina, Texas, and California and threatens to destroy our nation’s citrus industry.

With USDA funding, scientists at University of Florida are examining different strategies to increase the potential of citrus’ own immunity and develop trees resistant to the disease. To do so, they are leveraging the latest advances in gene editing by using CRISPR, a new gene-editing technique. The team is identifying the critical genetic factors that lead to resistance, and then editing segments of DNA. By breeding new, resilient tree varieties, the team is protecting our nation’s citrus industry so it can survive and thrive once again.

Retaking The Field Volume 5 “Retaking the Field Volume 5: Innovation to Profit” explores how federally funded agricultural research strengthens farmers and ranchers’ bottomline by reducing costs and risks, increasing profits, and laying the groundwork for new products and industries. With powerful examples from universities across the country, it describes how research can generate outsized economic benefits that extends for decades. View The Issue
Retaking the Field Volume 5: Innovation to Profit Click to download report

More Stories from the community

Building Blueberry Businesses

The Florida blueberry industry got its start in the 1970s when the University of Florida (UF) Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences developed the first Southern Highbush blueberry plants grown commercially in the state. The industry’s growth has been dramatic and spectacular. In the 1980s, the blueberry industry in Florida was worth less than $500,000. Today, the state’s industry is worth an estimated $82 million dollars per year. USDA has supported UF’s research on blueberry production over the course of 20 years.

Read More