Since 2019, the Citrus Research and Field Trial (or CRAFT) Foundation has supported growers who are experimenting with various means of addressing citrus greening in their operations, such as alternate varieties, nutritional supplements, or grove maintenance practices.
“(CRAFT) began as a way to assist growers in getting new trees in the ground while still deriving a research component,” says Rick Dantzler, COO of the Citrus Research and Development Foundation. “It has been quite successful, and the CRAFT board and Technical Working Group are to be commended for being as diligent as they have been about sticking to project parameters that provide usable knowledge that can be shared with other growers.”
In the first three years (or cycles), CRAFT has worked with growers to develop a total of 144 projects accounting for nearly 6,300 acres of newly planted solid set and reset citrus groves across 15 counties, covering all the major citrus-growing regions in Florida.
However, Cycle Four is shaping up to be the biggest in the program’s history. The number of proposals received for Cycle Four was 250+ projects representing 6,300 acres of new planning. Meaning Cycle Four project proposals are equal in acreage to the first three cycles combined, with nearly as many projects submitted this year than have been approved thus far.
The increased number of proposals meant that the Technical Working Group took longer to review these proposals — postponing the board’s approval of projects from the end of March to the end of April. Although the precise awards for Cycle Four are not determined as of this writing, CRAFT will be funding at least 2,500 acres worth of plantings. There could be more depending on the amount of reset plantings versus solid set plantings, due to the different amount awarded for each.
“The CRAFT Program has had a positive impact on the citrus industry,” says Tamara Wood, CRAFT Foundation’s Executive Director. “We’ve provided individual growers mechanisms to move forward — opportunities to replant and look forward. Going broader, across the industry, we’re compiling data to go back over and see what is working, how it’s working, and how to be more effective in the fight against citrus greening.”
This is not the final word for CRAFT. This year, they’ve begun a new program, this time geared toward treatments for existing growth. This program will look at the effectiveness of a handful of therapies, such as gibberellic acid; brassinosteroids; 2,4-D; or direct injected antimicrobials. In exchange for treatment data, growers can receive funding from the foundation to offset the cost of these treatments.
Additionally, the Foundation submitted requests for additional funding which, if awarded, will be made available in June, and the board will reconvene to consider approving additional projects. Beyond this, applications for Cycle Five projects will open in the summer.