GMOs and natural selection: Nature doesn’t give a crap about you

Source: GMOs and natural selection: Nature doesn’t give a crap about you

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Dual Treatment Tested for HLB Trees

Dual Treatment Tested for HLB Trees

Severe pruning combined with enhanced foliar nutrition did not prove cost-effective.

By Monica Ozores-Hampton, Fritz Roka, Robert Rouse and Pamela Roberts

HLB Trees

Citrus trees affected by huanglongbing (HLB) become diminished, weak and develop dieback resulting in reduced production. Decline in fruit yield ultimately prevents economically acceptable commercial citrus production. Pruning and spraying foliar nutritionals are two practices being considered to restore some level of productivity to HLB-infected trees.

Pruning, also known as buckhorning (Figure 1), is a cultural practice that stimulates strong tree regrowth. While shown to be effective to regrow freeze-damaged trees, buckhorning has never been tested in HLB trees. Citrus growers, however, have implemented foliar treatments of micronutrients and macronutrients as a method to satisfy a tree’s nutrient requirements after HLB has blocked nutrient flow via the phloem, reduced root systems or limited uptake capacity.

The enhanced foliar nutritional treatments do not have bactericidal effects on the bacterial pathogen Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (CLas). They may be employed, however, to maintain the nutritional health and productivity of HLB-affected trees.

STUDY SETUP
A study was conducted between 2010 and 2015 to evaluate the horticultural impact, juice quality and economic returns from pruning in combination with an enhanced foliar nutritional treatment on HLB-affected orange trees. The study was located at the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Southwest Florida Research and Education Center in Immokalee within a 5-acre block of 16-year-old Valencia orange trees on Swingle citrumelo rootstock. Trees were planted 15 feet in-row by 22 feet between rows (132 trees/acre) on two-row raised beds with micro-sprinkler irrigation and soil classified as Immokalee fine sand.

HLB Trees

A total of 14 rows on the east side of each bed were buckhorned (Figure 2). The rows on the west side of each bed were not pruned. Each row was split in half, and four foliar nutritional treatments were applied as Boyd, Fortress with KNO3 or urea (four times per year), and a control [(commercial standard), Table 1]. Each nutritional treatment was replicated seven times across the area.
Pruning was done in February 2010 using a commercial hedger and topping machine. Pruned trees were cut back to their scaffold branches, leaving only 10 to 15 percent of the original canopy (Figure 1). The products and amounts of the foliar-applied nutrient treatments are shown in Table 1. In accordance with the UF/IFAS recommendations for citrus, all treatment plots received ground-applied fertilizer twice per year using a slow-release 14-0-18 + magnesium, sulfur and boron, and calcium nitrate 9-1-14 + magnesium, manganese, zinc, iron, copper and boron. The annual total amount of nitrogen was 160 pounds per acre and 205 pounds per acre of potassium oxide.

Data collection consisted of real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for detection of CLas, tree growth (shoot length, tree volume and total shoot leaf area), leaf chlorophyll concentration, fruit yield and juice quality [percent juice, titratable acid (TA), total soluble solids (TSS) as Brix and TSS/TA ratio]. Prices of materials were collected from fertilizer and chemical product vendors to estimate the costs of each foliar treatment.

RESEARCH RESULTS
PCR testing confirmed that all trees were infected with CLas at the beginning of the study. Canopy volume of pruned trees increased throughout the trial, but never grew to equal the canopy volume of non-pruned trees. However, leaf area of pruned trees was consistently greater than the leaf area of non-pruned trees, beginning with the second year of the trial.

 As expected, fruit yields from pruned trees were significantly lower than yields from non-pruned trees in the year after buckhorning. While the pruned trees recovered and set a fruit crop close to the non-pruned trees, the 5-year cumulative yield from the pruned trees remained significantly less than the cumulative yield from the non-pruned trees (Table 2). Pruned trees did not produce a higher yield than non-pruned trees in any year. There were no statistically significant differences among juice-quality parameters between pruned and non-pruned trees or nutritional treatments.

The total cost of pruning was estimated to be $160/acre. When the estimated value of first-year fruit loss was considered, the total cost of buckhorning rose to $560/acre. Since the yields from pruned trees never surpassed the fruit yields from unpruned trees, there were no offsetting gains.

The annual cost of the control foliar nutritional treatments was $40/acre. Fortress treatments were between $295 and $305/acre, depending on whether KNO3 or urea was applied. The Boyd foliar nutritional treatment was $550/acre (Table 1). All treatment costs included materials and application.

HLB TreesEnhanced foliar nutrition treatments provided slight yield benefits, especially in the early years of the trial (Table 2), but the yield differences were not statistically significant. Even if a value were to be put to the numerical yield differences, the added value of the higher yields did not offset the cost of any foliar nutritional treatment beyond the control (Table 3). It should be noted, however, that the control foliar nutritional treatment did contain some micronutrients (Table 1). Given the lack of statistical differences among the nutritional treatments, the amount of micronutrients in the control treatment may have more than satisfied the trees’ requirements.

The results from this trial confirmed that HLB-infected trees can regrow after pruning and produce fruit. The pruning, as used in this trial, was not cost-effective through the first five years after buckhorning. However, the rapid regrowth of pruned trees suggests that a more moderate pruning approach may be more cost-effective at rejuvenating HLB-affected trees and may be an alternative to tree removal and replanting.

Monica Ozores-Hampton and Fritz Roka are associate professors, Robert Rouse is a retired associate professor, and Pamela Roberts is a professor — all with the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Southwest Florida Research and Education Center in Immokalee.

Gene Editing vs. GMO?

Move Over GMOs? Monsanto Experimenting With Gene Editing

Dr. Robert Fraley, Monsanto’s Chief Scientific Officer says gene editing is a new innovation that could reshape how we eat. Monsanto (MON), the world’s largest producer of GMO seeds, is betting that a new technology called gene editing may calm consumers unease about eating modified foods.

Monsanto announced earlier this month that they are investing heavily in gene editing or CRISPR/Cas9—a genome editing technology developed by Broad institute—that will allow scientists to make changes to a plant’s already-existing DNA without adding any foreign DNA (like GMOs allow).

“In the crop world we use [GMOs] to introduce a new gene into a crop, a gene that may confer tolerance to drought, or a protection against insects. With gene editing, we don’t have to put a new gene into the plant. What we are able to do is precisely modify a gene that is already existing in the plant, in the animal, or even in human healthcare applications,” Fraley adds, who says consumers can expect these new products to hit the market in the next 5 years.

http://video.foxbusiness.com/v/video-embed.html?video_id=5436512625001&loc=foxbusiness.com&ref=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.foxbusiness.com%2Ffeatures%2F2017%2F05%2F17%2Fmove-over-gmos-monsanto-experimenting-with-gene-editing.html&_xcf=Watch the latest video at <a href=”//video.foxbusiness.com”>video.foxbusiness.com</a>“Some of the first products are already going through regulatory approval. Just last year, scientists developed a mushroom where they knocked out the gene that causes the mushroom to turn brown, so that will be able to reduce food waste and improve flavor,” Fraley adds.

However, some food experts and scientists are skeptical. “While these new technologies are touted to be more precise than older genetic engineering technologies, it is widely accepted in the scientific community that there can be ‘off target’ effects to the genome when the technologies are utilized. GMOs, including the products of these new technologies, have not been adequately tested—no long-term feeding studies have been conducted—and people are starting to connect these experimental technologies to health concerns,” Megan Westgate, executive director of Non-GMO Project, tells FOX Business.

Dr. V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai, a scientist and CEO of CytoSolve, Inc., says gene editing sounds much simpler than it is – and for him, that is the problem.

“The human body and the human cell are an interconnected complex system of systems. Editing a single gene, has systemic effects, which cannot be done ad hoc. Changing one itsy weeny teeny weeny gene isn’t so simple. One needs to understand how that change affects the concentrations of other chemicals in the plant,” Ayyadurai tells FOX Business.

Jon Entine, executive director of the Genetic Literacy Project and founder of Genetic Experts News Service, says that while gene editing may be an easier sell to consumers than GMOs, it also stands to boost Monsanto’s bottom line.

“CRISPR and other gene editing techniques are scientifically easier than conventional breeding. And, genetic engineering saves time and money—as much as $130 million in 10 years or more, which is the cost and time of getting a GMO approved and commercialized,” Entine tells FOX Business.

Last year, PEW Research Center found that 39% of Americans consider genetically modified foods worse for a person’s health than other foods, compared to 48% of adults who say GM foods are no different than non-GM foods.

Fraley says part of the reason that some Americans have a negative perception of GMOs is because the company didn’t educate people about the science early on said Monsanto’s chief scientific officer Dr. Robert Fraley. “That was a big mistake, and in our [absence] of communicating that other folks were able to position the technology in a negative sense, and it’s taken a long time to build back up the understanding and benefit of these tools,” Fraley says.

More on this…

Engineered Virus to Battle HLB?

Geneticists Enlist Engineered Virus and CRISPR to Battle Citrus Disease

Desperate farmers hope scientists can beat pathogen that is wrecking the US orange harvest

The required public comment period on the application ended last week, and the USDA will now assess the possible environmental effects of the engineered virus.

Field trials of engineered CTV are already under way. If the request is approved, it would be the first time this approach has been used commercially. It could also provide an opportunity to sidestep the regulations and public stigma attached to genetically engineered crops. “There’s a real race on right now to try to save the citrus,” says Carolyn Slupsky, a food scientist at the University of California, Davis. “This disease is everywhere, and it’s horrible.”

The engineered virus is just one option being explored to tackle citrus greening. Other projects aim to edit the genome of citrus trees using CRISPR–Cas9 to make them more resistant to the pest, or engineer trees to express defence genes or short RNA molecules that prevent disease transmission. Local growers have also helped to fund an international project that has sequenced citrus trees to hunt for more weapons against citrus greening.

“There are great scientific opportunities here,” says Bryce Falk, a plant pathologist at the University of California, Davis. “We need to take advantage of new technologies.”

Citrus greening is caused by species from the candidate bacterial genus Candidatus Liberibacter. Spread by sap-sucking, flying insects called Asian citrus psyllids (Diaphorina citri), the bacteria cause citrus trees to make bitter, misshapen fruits that have green lower halves. The disease is also widely known by its Chinese name, huanglongbing.

The first tree in the United States with symptoms was reported in Miami in 2005. “We had the ‘uh-oh’ moment,” says Fred Gmitter, who breeds new citrus varieties at the University of Florida in Lake Alfred.

Some researchers have had accidental success against the disease. Gmitter’s team released a mandarin variety called Sugarbell just as the outbreak was getting under way. Although those trees have since become infected with C. Liberibacter, farmers are able to reap a reasonable crop of sweet oranges if the plants receive proper pruning and nutrition. But it is difficult to build on that success: why the trees are relatively tolerant of the disease remains a mystery.

For years, Southern Gardens Citrus has been genetically engineering plants to express genes taken from spinach that defend against the disease. The company says that the results of field trials suggest some degree of protection. But this approach will take many years to meet regulatory requirements for marketing a genetically modified crop. And consumers may not take kindly to a fruit or juice that comes from a genetically modified tree.

So Southern Gardens Citrus added a different approach, and began the USDA approval process for engineered CTV in February. Instead of modifying the trees, the company wants to alter the genome of a harmless strain of CTV so that it produces the spinach defence gene. The company intends to graft tree limbs infected with the virus onto trees. In April, the USDA announced it would start work on an environmental impact statement, a process that typically takes about two years and will be needed before the department allows the modified virus to be used commercially.

Because the virus does not alter the fruit, this approach may allow farmers to argue that the oranges are not genetically modified, and so avoid regulation and reduce public doubt.

That is also the goal of separate projects looking for genes that confer disease resistance when switched off. If researchers can find such genes, they could use CRISPR to inactivate them. Nian Wang, a plant pathologist also at the University of Florida, is using this approach to edit orange trees, and hopes to know by 2019 whether they are disease-resistant. Others are using RNA interference in psyllids to switch off genes that allow the insects to transmit the bacteria.

For now, one question dominates: whether the citrus industry will still be alive by the time these solutions make it to the groves. “It’s an incredibly devastating disease,” says Gmitter. “Growers needed answers ten years ago.”

The Next Big Disruption In Agriculture

The next big disruption in agriculture

Sometimes a shock to the system can be a very good

In the business world, there’s a term to describe an event that completely changes an existing industry or market. It’s called a disruptor, and it changes how we think, work, and do business.

It can be argued that agriculture has gone through three major disruptions in the last century: the mechanization of farming; the arrival of chemical fertilizers and pesticides; and the genetics revolution which introduced new varieties, new breeding tools, and genetic engineering.

Innovations in each of these fields changed the way we farm, and each resulted in increased productivity and efficiency.

We are now on the cusp of the fourth major disruptor: biology. More specifically, advances in microbiology are opening the eyes of farmers, scientists, those in ag industry, and even venture capitalists to the world beneath the soil surface. And what they are finding down there is truly amazing

In 2012, the American Academy of Microbiology produced a report entitled “How Microbes Can Help Feed the World.” That report claimed that attention to microbiology could “increase the productivity of any crop, in any environment, in an economically viable and ecologically responsible manner.”

More than just a medium that anchors and feeds the crop, soils are teeming with life. Pick up a handful of healthy fertile soil and you will be holding billions of living organisms in your hand (see chart).

In fact, an acre of healthy soil can contain from a few hundred to thousands of pounds of microbial biomass.

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And that isn’t all. According to Dr. Mathew Wallenstein, associate professor at Colorado State University, this handful of soil will have tens of thousands of different microbes. “Any soil will have as much microbial diversity as the diversity of life you would find in a tropical rain forest,” says Wallenstein.

Science reveals that these tiny organisms play a huge role in the growth of plants. Some convert organic matter into nutrient forms that a plant is able to utilize. Others help protect the plant from disease and pests, and some microbes even communicate with plants, enabling the plant to deal with environmental stresses and reduce the impact of drought, for example.

“Microbes are critical to sustainable agriculture,” Wallenstein says.

It is the discovery of such symbiotic and complementary relationships that is leading scientists to turn their focus from plant health to soil health. For example, instead of just feeding the plant, farmers are being encouraged to feed the microbes necessary for the conversion of chemical fertilizers into nutrients which the plant can take up.

Scientists are also trying to isolate microbes which enable a plant to resist pests, and then develop a process for growing these desired agricultural biologicals, packaging them, and devising a process which farmers can use to introduce these organisms into their cropping system.

In many ways, this idea is not new. We have known for decades about the value of nodulation for legumes to fix their own nitrogen. Farmers inoculate crops such as alfalfa, soybeans, peas, and lentils to ensure maximized N fixation.

But it is only recently that science has learned the impacts that so many other organisms have on plant growth. And, in spite of such advances in the study of soil microbes, scientists are still only able to grow about one per cent of known soil organisms in a lab setting.

New products

Biological products have been sold for many decades. Unfortunately, many of the early biologicals were marketed as miracle products that could do everything from increasing yields to preventing disease and pests to even improving soils. They were often unregulated, and there was no review of their efficacy, which led to a feeling among farmers that all biological products were “snake oil.”

Wallenstein points out that the biological products on the market today are targeted for their activity. Science defines how they work and farmers know what to expect when using the product. In the U.S., all biologicals are regulated at the state level for efficacy, content, and analysis.

Wallenstein says the addition of the right microbes will benefit any farm by enhancing productivity. Under optimal environmental and fertility conditions, the addition of a biological will enable a plant to produce more than its genetic potential suggests is possible.

Wallenstein even launched his own company a few years ago named Growcentia, which is marketing Mammoth P, a microbial product designed to increase the availability of phosphorus to plants.

Phil de Vries, meanwhile, is the soil and plant health adviser with Agriculture Solutions, a full service soil nutrient retailer in Elora, Ont. This company supplies farmers with a wide range of soil fertility products including biological fertilizers, soil conditioners, bio-stimulants, soil amendments, and seed treatments.

“Microbes are essential for both plant growth and healthy soil,” de Vries says.

For this reason, Agriculture Solutions has developed a suite of biological products to address fertility and pH problems in soils. They can feed native microbes already in the soil, and even introduce microbes which work symbiotically with plants to better utilize fertilizers and soil minerals.

Agricultural Solutions also sell biologicals designed to reduce stress in plants due to environmental conditions, nutritional deficiencies, and pests.

Likely the biggest question farmers would have about this kind of product list is how to tell if such products are needed on their farms in the first place. De Vries points out there are scientific tests which can assess the amount of soil life by measuring the amount of nitrogen mineralization or the amount of microbial respiration. However, these tests are expensive, so he suggests a quick and easy test that farmers can do themselves is to look for earthworms. Earthworms are at the top of the soil life food chain and the presence of large numbers of earthworms is an indicator of high microbe numbers.

While most of Agriculture Solutions’ sales are in southern Ontario, the company does have customers across Canada and the U.S., and de Vries notes they held a meeting this past winter in Regina for the first time with a very large turnout of prairie growers interested in soil biology and microbial products.

On the other hand

The research and development of new biological products will add a significant cost to farmers. Markets and Markets, a global market research organization, has estimated the agricultural microbial market was already worth US$2.17 billion in 2015. They estimate the market for microbials by 2021 should double to US$5.07 billion.

With growth like this, it is no wonder there has been a rush by ag industry to capture some of this market. In the January 6, 2016 issue of Scientific American, Thomas Schafer, vice-president of bio-ag research at Novozymes stated: “Companies like Monsanto, Bayer, Syngenta and BASF are working on microbes because they believe (the technology) has the potential to reduce chemistry and allow us to live more sustainably.”

In fact, Novozymes and Monsanto are actively co-operating in this area, with Novozymes focusing on finding, identifying and growing beneficial biologicals, while Monsanto concentrates on field testing these new products. In 2015, BioAg (as their joint venture is named) tested over 2,000 microbial coatings in over half a million plots in the U.S. Midwest. The five top biologicals increased corn yields more than four bushels per acre, and BioAg hopes to have a new microbial product available in the U.S. in 2017.

Success like this has led to predictions that biological products will be used on half the cropland in the U.S. by 2025.

Before you commit to using biologicals across your entire farm, however, here are a few things to consider. First, would the microbial product be registered by CFIA or PMRA? Fertility products require CFIA approval. If the product is listed as a pest control agent it has to be approved by PMRA.

Second, read the label and follow the directions carefully. Some biological products will require multiple applications to be effective. In an excellent paper, “Microbial Amendments and Microbe-friendly Additives,” author Tony Pattison, soil health team leader, Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries wrote: “Each microbial agent has specific temperature, moisture and pH requirements for growth and colonisation of the soil. It is very difficult to generalise about the requirements that favour the proliferation of microbial agents. There are few studies that track the survival of microbial inoculants. However, one study investigated the addition of bacteria to the soil and found a tenfold reduction in the population of that bacteria in the soil after four days, 100,000-fold reduction after 50 days, and after 90 days the bacteria was undetectable in the soil.” (Esnard et al, 1998)

Pattison’s paper provides an excellent, easy-to-read overview of soil life and the effect microbes have on plant life. You can view it here as a PDF on the Queensland Government website.

Finally, whenever you use a biological product, leave an untreated control strip to see if the product is actually making a difference in your operation and to enable you to determine the return on your investment from that product.


Support soil microbes with good farming practices

Many farmers are likely hesitant to purchase new, relatively unproven biological products, especially given current low grain prices. However, all farmers can benefit from the research into soil biology without even purchasing novel soil amendments.

Dr. Bobbi Helgason, soil microbiologist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, has studied the impact of farming on soil health and the microbial community. She says farmers who have adopted modern, sustainable farming practices benefit from increased microbe populations and healthier soils.

“No-till farming has had a huge impact on soil health,” Helgason says. “It has increased the organic matter in the soils, which means more food for microbes.”

Helgason also points out that farmers who use cover crops also increase food supply for microbes.

Also, today’s farmers have introduced a wider diversity of crops into their rotations which encourages diversity in the microbial population.

Helgason points out that all soils contain a huge number of diverse microbes, so the addition of a jug of a biological product is merely a drop in a very large bucket. It is just as important to feed the native microbes in your soils as adding a few more. The first step toward increasing soil health and the microbe populations is to learn more about the importance of microbes to the soil and plants. Then, follow a sustainable farming system that supports microbes.

Georgia Citrus

Georgia Citrus Seeking to Make Its Mark

Georgia Citrus Association grove tour meeting
Dr. Wayne Hanna of the University of Georgia addresses an interested crowd on a grove tour during a recent Georgia Citrus Association meeting.
Photo courtesy of the Georgia Citrus Growers Association

Most of us in Florida are not accustomed to thinking of Georgia as a citrus-producing state. Though there has long been a smattering of homeowner and niche-market Satsuma plantings, they were not what one would consider commercial enterprises. Things might be changing.

Over the past few years, citrus production meetings were held in the North Florida border counties of Jackson and Gadsden, as well as Perry, FL, and Auburn, AL. Each of these areas have been seriously exploring the possibility of commercial citrus production. Most recently, and certainly most notably, was a meeting in February of the newly formed Georgia Citrus Association (GCA). Though the association was just born in October, it now boasts 81 member companies and attracted 278 people to its inaugural meeting at the University of Georgia Tifton campus.

Membership includes nine companies from Florida (several farms straddle the border), and a couple from Alabama, Mississippi, and South Carolina. Meeting attendees represented most states in the Southeast.

Are You Serious?

While reading this article, some Florida farmers and nursery growers are likely questioning the sanity of such endeavors and are wondering what is driving interest in such a drastic shift in the perceived northern range of domestic citrus production. Conversations in Tifton indicated this newfound interest is based on several factors:

  • Average temperatures in these regions not hitting the extreme lows that were once commonplac
  • Better freeze protection techniques
  • Interest in seizing upon declining production further south, and the hope that Asian citrus psyllid pressure will remain low in their areas
  • Newly released varieties that appear to offer superior cold weather performance
  • A hot market for soft citrus

Perhaps one of the most surprising gleanings from the Tifton meeting is that interest is not limited to border counties. Interest in Georgia appears to be statewide. Lindy Savelle, GCA President, informed us that she has had calls from interested growers in Northwest Georgia and counties west of Atlanta, well above the old “Gnat Line.”

To date, there has been widespread support from Florida in helping along the new northern production area. Ralph Howells spoke at the recent meeting about marketing. Travis Murphy spoke about production and freeze protection, and Billy Murphy and Phillip Rucks were there to answer questions related to nursery issues.

So, What Are They Planting?

Most of the interest remains focused on Satsuma and Satsuma-like varieties. There is somewhat of an established market for this type of soft citrus fruit and the cold hardiness of these varieties has been well documented (especially on trifoliate rootstocks). Dr. Wayne Hanna, University of Georgia, recently released several interesting varieties that have been exclusively licensed in Georgia to 1 Dog Ventures, the only all-citrus nursery in Georgia. Dr. Hanna, himself a citrus enthusiast, set out to reduce the seeds in selections that had shown tremendous resilience in the face of minimal care and cold temperatures.

  • ‘Sweet Frost’ is an irradiated Changsha mandarin with two to three seeds per fruit. It has a Brix range of 11-12, it is very easy peel, well-colored, and matures (in GA) in November or December.
  • ‘Grand Frost’ is an irradiated Ichang lemon. This is a large lemon (25 centimeters to 28 cm in circumference) with about 8 Brix and high juice content. It has nice, bright-yellow color and a maturity range of November through January.
  • ‘Pink Frost’ is a red grapefruit, with characteristics not dissimilar to ‘Ruby Red,’ but with somewhat deeper color. It averages 30 cm to 35 cm in circumference, has Brix 8-11, and matures (in GA) November through March. It averages three seeds per fruit. This variety was identified in Georgia. It was a high seed fruit, with approximately 60 seeds before being irradiated.

Dr. Hanna noted that the non-irradiated versions of these varieties each took 0°F in the 1985 freeze with no irrigation. The trees were 10 years old at the time. Post-freeze, the lemon lost 18 inches of limbs and the tangerine lost 12 inches. The two- to four-year-old trees presently in the field survived 18°F with some young leaf discoloration during the 2014 freeze. Again, this was with no freeze protection. The varieties have not been (legitimately) introduced into Florida, but there may be interest in doing so.

Rooney Secures Citrus Disease Research Funding

Rooney Secures Millions For Citrus In Spending Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Tom Rooney (FL-17), co-chair of the Congressional Citrus Caucus, secured just over $61 million in funding to combat citrus greening disease in the 2017 Consolidated Appropriations bill that will be voted on in the House of Representatives this week. Florida’s citrus industry employees 75,000 people and accounts for $9 billion of the agriculture industry’s total economic impact.

Rooney is one of three members of Florida’s Congressional delegation to sit on the prestigious House Appropriations Committee and he is the only Florida member serving on the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee. In that capacity, he has worked on behalf of Florida’s citrus growers and producers to secure critical funding for citrus disease research programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The 2017 Agriculture Appropriations bill includes $7.5 million to sustain the Huanglongbing Multiagency Coordination Group’s (HLB-MAC) recent research gains in early detection, greening management strategies, and therapies to treat infected trees and $53.8 million for the USDA’s Citrus Health Response Program (CHRP). CHRP is a nationwide effort to protect the U.S. citrus industry from invasive pests and diseases, like HLB, and funds for this program allow the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to partner with states and local entities to develop a cure for citrus greening disease.

“I represent the largest citrus-producing district in the country and my growers have experienced firsthand how greening disease decimates Florida’s citrus industry,” Rooney said. “Since we first saw citrus greening surface in Florida in 2005, citrus crop has declined precipitously and is expected to hit all-time low for the 2016 to 2017 season. Since I was elected in 2008, one of my top priorities has been finding a cure for citrus greening and this money will help to get us there. This $61 million investment is urgently-needed to sustain progress on research and development of a cure for citrus greening and to prevent the American citrus industry from becoming extinct. In Florida, and especially my district, citrus isn’t just a crop, it’s a way of life.”

2160 Rayburn House Office Building · Washington, D.C. · 20515

Phone: (202) 225-5792 · www.rooney.house.gov