For nearly five years now, the CRAFT (Citrus Research and Field Trial) Foundation has worked with Florida citrus growers to field test potential solutions to combat greening. Each project year (or “cycle”) has added numerous projects and acreage, currently representing 10,000 acres of Florida citrus across Cycles 1-4.
But 2024, which begins Cycle 5, looks to be the biggest yet, with proposals for 221 projects representing approximately 14,000 acres currently under review.
CRAFT’s Scientific Coordinator, Carissa Keller, is currently working with grower applicants to finalize their field trial design proposals that will subsequently be presented to CRAFT’s Technical Working Group. The TWG will then evaluate these projects holistically and recommend a slate of final projects to the Board of Directors based on available funding.
The 221 applications submitted include 17 for the Solid Set with Program for Expedited Propagation of HLB Tolerant and Resistant Trees materials category; 80 traditional solid set plantings; and 114 reset plantings. These projects include a large scope of treatments, planting designs and rootstock/scions to be evaluated, and continue to build on the more than 200 projects already enrolled in Cycles 1-4.
“We don’t know exactly how many acres will be approved in this round due to varying payment rates,” says Tamara Wood, CRAFT Foundation’s Executive Director, “but we anticipate a significant addition to the current 10,000 acres.”
In exchange for a participation payment to the growers, CRAFT is able to collect and compile comprehensive records on each project for a total of six years. All of that data is then entered into one centralized data portal, with the data available to anyone who may be interested in the work CRAFT is doing.
Beyond the new plantings projects represented by the first five Cycles, CRAFT has also begun the Existing Tree Therapies program. The ETT program started in early 2023 and focuses on four primary therapies used on existing plantings, including gibberellic acid, 2,4-D, brassinosteroids and the direct systemic application of approved antimicrobials such as oxytetracycline. In this program, growers are required to maintain an untreated control area to serve as a comparison for data, and much like the traditional CRAFT new planting program, participants will be required to submit related production records and yield data to the CRAFT-USDA Data Portal as a part of the program.
According to Wood, “[t]he first round of the ETT had almost 200 projects approved, representing nearly 9,000 acres approved for participation. Round Two had more than 900 additional contracts approved bringing the total acres involved to more than 74,000.”
Between CRAFT’s two program initiatives, Florida citrus growers have a great deal of hope for the future of the industry.