Congress boosts citrus breeding efforts in Central Valley

(Rigo Moran)

U.S. Congress puts $1 million into a new citrus breeding program to breed higher quality citrus across California

EXETER – California Citrus Mutual has an opportunity to squeeze the best out of the citrus industry following a million dollar grant from Congress meant to benefit the future of citrus growers – including the ones in the Central Valley.

As announced by California Citrus Mutual (CCM) on June 15, the million-dollar grant is funding a citrus breeding program meant to identify new varieties of citrus capable of withstanding things like changing state climates, like drought and consumer preferences. It will also help citrus growers in the struggle against diseases like Huanglongbing (HLB), a fatal, incurable citrus plant ailment.

“(We) look forward to finding solutions to the issues California citrus growers are faced with every day,”  CCM president and CEO Casey Creamer said via news release.

The funding came a year after Congress provided the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) with a $1 million dollar grant to establish the new citrus breeding program at the USDA agricultural research service (ARS) field station located in Parlier.

“On behalf of the industry, we are appreciative of the committee and our congressional leaders for their commitment to fully developing this program,” Creamer said.

The California program is an expansion of the existing national USDA ARS citrus breeding program located in Florida. This program is focused primarily on varieties that are optimized for growing conditions in Florida. The Florida program has resulted in new varieties with higher yields, increased disease resistance, improved color and a longer shelf life.

Florida and California breeding programs, along with the continued efforts of the University of California citrus breeding program at UC Riverside, will work together to deliver the best results for California citrus growers in the near future.

The house appropriations committee has included additional funding for citrus breeding research to develop and evaluate high-quality, superior citrus selections for use in citrus-producing regions. This will entail evaluating rootstock and scion materials where citrus is commercially grown for the fresh fruit market.

On top of the $1 million given to the citrus breeding program, congress is also supporting other programs such as the citrus health response program (CHRP) and the Huanglongbing Multi-Agency Coordination (HLB MAC).

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