Citrus greening has cost Florida nearly $4 billion dollars since it was discovered in the state in 2005, but in 2016, researchers at the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred, Florida, made several discoveries that may help growers combat the disease and save Florida’s valuable citrus industry. Citrus growers seeking replacements for trees lost to greening now have better options, thanks to two new Valencia orange varieties that can be harvested much earlier than traditional varieties. Growers noticing an increase in fruit-drop and decayed fruit will soon benefit from a new scanning method to get an accurate measure of the problem, sometimes a symptom of greening, in their groves. A new time-lapse photography technique can spot the disease early, before symptoms begin to show. And a newly developed technique to inject citrus tree trunks with a bactericide may allow growers to administer a once-a-year “shot” to kill the bacterium that causes greening from roots to leaves, saving their trees. These are just a few of the promising discoveries UF/IFAS Research has made in the fight against citrus greening disease.
Dr. Fred Gmitter examining citrus trees in a greenhouse at the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred. UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones
In May 2016, UF/IFAS Extension, American Culinary Association-certified Chef David Bearl, and Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales partnered to teach 40 Florida middle school students that vegetables are delicious and cooking is fun. Assisted by a crew of teenaged sous chefs drafted from Lake Wales High School’s culinary arts program, Chef Bearl and Tricia Martin, director of education at Bok Tower Gardens, ushered the middle schoolers through the vegetable patch near Bok Tower Gardens’ new, state-of-the-art Outdoor Kitchen and Edible Garden, where they picked ingredients for a meal. The students made whole-wheat-crust veggie pizzas with their freshly picked haul, with Chef Bearl providing oversight and guidance about proper handwashing and kitchen safety. They watched their pizzas cook in the kitchen’s wood-fired brick oven and then sat down to a tasty, healthful meal they had made themselves. Teens and preteens alike learned about nutrition, possible culinary arts careers, and the value of natural resources from the demonstration, just one program resulting from UF/IFAS’s mutually beneficial partnerships with community institutions like Bok Tower Gardens.
Photo: Chef David Bearl. UF/IFAS File Photo