Long-awaited HLB research lab soon to be a reality

On Monday, the executive committee for the California Citrus Research Foundation held a conference call with CRB leadership and the UC Riverside containment director about the status of the facility’s USDA certification, occupancy prospects, and equipment and facility functions.

We were notified that USDA is authorizing specific members of the research committee to access the facility in preparation of full certification and the commencement of research specific to HLB. GOOD NEWS, INDEED.

A minor problem with equipment and natural bureaucracy lag time is the only thing holding up full certification. But, the facility has been assigned a number and henceforth, in the parlance of USDA speak, the industry facility will be known as BSL3 – #5180.

A year ago, an industry vetting committee prioritized four applications to access the facility. Full access to the lab requires a permit on their part, plus certification of the facility by USDA. Two project leaders have received the necessary paperwork and have begun moving equipment and other tangible items into the facility.

While deadlines have been missed and costs are a bit more than budgeted, the bottom line is that the citrus industry will have its own BSL3 facility to conduct sensitive HLB research. Heretofore, the majority of HLB research in the U.S. has been done in Florida or at UC Davis.

On a parallel path, USDA authorized a grant to the Foundation for purchasing equipment for a companion structure that will house citrus trees and psyllids in preparation for HLB research within the lab. CRB will manage the implementation of that effort.

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