Ever since the first case of citrus greening was detected in Florida in 2005, the citrus industry in the state has been struggling. Naturally, the search for solutions to the problems of greening is on, with various research labs and numerous growers all searching for an answer.
Among these groups is the Citrus Research and Field Trial (or CRAFT) Foundation. Since 2019, the 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. Program Director Tamara Wood sums up CRAFT as “a grower-driven field trial and demonstration program…a next step or a new approach to the fight against greening.”
So far, CRAFT has worked with growers to develop a total of 103 projects accounting for nearly 4,700 acres of newly planted solid and reset citrus groves across 15 counties, covering all of the major citrus-growing regions in Florida.
“We haven’t found that silver bullet yet,” Wood says. “But we have found a number of treatments and strategies that have shown promise.” However, this promise in a controlled environment may not indicate how effective or economically feasible those solutions are.
And that, she says, is where CRAFT comes in. “We’re partnering with the growers to take these research backed ideas into the groves, to evaluate them in a number of settings.” In the application process, it is up to the grower to identify treatment options they are interested in exploring. But Wood clarifies that this does not mean growers have to continue on their own. “They work with our Technical Working Group to fine-tune a design that allows us to collect scientifically viable data.”
Wood says that this approach helps to “pinpoint what’s working and what isn’t.”
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.
This will allow any grower anywhere in Florida to look at real data that can be sorted by regions, rootstocks, or factors being used, and look at both the cost and effectiveness of the factors being used.
Hopefully, this data will help growers across the state succeed against citrus greening.