MANATEE — The Florida Department of Citrus is stepping up the battle against citrus greening and other diseases with $10.8 million for research. Contracts were signed last week to begin funding research projects through the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
In all, there are 83 citrus disease research proposals approved for funding. Seventy are sponsored by the Florida Department of Citrus, and 13 will be funded by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, according to a press release from the Florida Department of Citrus.
The money for research was found by cutting funds for marketing citrus, said Karen Mathis, public relations director for the Florida Department of Citrus.
Taxes growers pay per box of citrus provide funding for the Florida Department of Citrus, which serves as a marketing agency for the Florida citrus growers.
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"A large percentage of the budget is spent for marketing so that we can promote Florida citrus nationally," Mathis said.
In the citrus community, concern is high over two diseases: canker and greening.
Canker is an infection that causes lesions on the leaves, stems and fruit of citrus trees, resulting in leaves and fruit dropping prematurely.
Greening, which is spread by psyllid insects, is a bacterial disease that reduces a tree’s production, ultimately killing the tree.
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