By Abby Peltzer, California Citrus Mutual
California Citrus Mutual (CCM) and the Citrus Research Board (CRB) welcome more than $1 million in new federal funding for critical research programs that support the U.S. and California citrus industries.
The 2023 Appropriations bill passed by Congress last week includes continued funding to help stop the deadly citrus plant disease Huanglonging (HLB) that has devastated citrus production in Florida and other parts of the country. Additionally, $1 million in new funding was approved to establish a citrus breeding program at the USDA Agriculture Research Service (ARS) field station in Parlier, California. This funding will be re-appropriated annually.
Championed by California Senator Alex Padilla and Representatives Jim Costa and David Valadao, the new California citrus breeding program will identify new citrus varieties that are best suited for changing climatic pressures such as drought, consumer taste preferences, and resistant to pests and diseases such as HLB.
The program is an expansion of the existing national USDA ARS citrus breeding program located in Florida, which is focused primarily on varieties that are optimized for Florida growing conditions. The Florida program has resulted in new varieties with higher yields, increased disease resistance, improved color, and a longer shelf life.
With such promising advances being made in Florida, CCM and the CRB saw the need for a similar program in California to breed fresh citrus varieties that are better adapted to the unique environmental conditions of California’s production regions.
The CRB, which is a grower-funded organization aimed at furthering the industry’s research priorities, has committed $500,000 toward establishing the new breeding program in Parlier, with the goal of bringing additional representation to California’s industry.
“The commitment of the citrus industry to delivering quality research and innovation for all farm use has taken a big step forward with the support of congress funding the citrus breeding program in Parlier,” said Justin Brown, CRB Chairman.
Marcy L. Martin, CRB President, added, “Expanding the current national citrus breeding program into California will have a significant impact on California’s citrus industry as growers aim to mitigate the evolving issues that affect production and increase yield through varietal research.”
The Florida and California breeding programs along with the continued efforts of the University of California citrus breeding program at UC Riverside will work together to deliver the best results for California citrus growers.
“The addition of the breeding facility in Parlier will make the ARS Citrus Program a truly national project,” said CCM President and CEO Casey Creamer. “We look forward to watching the growth of this program and its collaboration with the UC breeding program to find solutions to the issues California citrus growers are faced with every day.”
Additionally, the 2023 Federal budget includes continued funding for the Citrus Health Response Program, which supplements industry and state funding for on-the-ground efforts aimed at preventing the spread of the HLB and continued funding for the Huanglongbing Multi-Agency Coordination group, which funds research programs aimed at identifying short term solutions to HLB.