CCM Vice Chairman Matt Fisher and Board member John Gless are in Florida this week with CCM Vice President Bob Blakely, attending the 5th International Research Conference on Huanglongbing. The week long event held every two years is attended by nearly 500 scientist from all over the United States and five foreign countries, including for the first time Cuba. Over 120 ACP/HLB research projects will be reported on, over three days of breakout sessions. “It is encouraging and overwhelming to see the amount of diverse research being done to stop HLB,” reports Blakely, mid-way through the conference. It also brings into clear focus how elusive this disease is and how much we still don’t know. “I have to admit that much of what I’ve heard is way over my head. Some of the work in the area of transgenics and building resistance into the tree gives me hope. However, I wish things were moving faster. We’re still a long way from having an answer,” says Tom Aguilar, a CCM member also attending the conference.
Tuesday included a trip to the University of Florida Citrus Education and Research Center in Lake Alfred, Florida. The CERC Director Dr. Michael Rogers took the CCM group on a tour of the facility and introduced the researchers doing work in the area of biocontrol, best management practices, water and nutrient management, and genetic engineering. There is an ongoing experiment growing commercial citrus trees in containers inside a protective structure at the station.
Florida Citrus Mutual organized orchard visits with several growers and shippers. “I always believed HLB was bad, but until I actually came here and saw the devastation that HLB has wrought on Florida for myself, I really didn’t know how bad,” said Fisher. “Some of the growers we talked to have lost everything and still have hope that someday there will be a cure and that they will be able to replant; it’s amazing,” continued Fisher.
“My take away,” says John Gless, “is that we need to pursue every possible avenue in looking for a solution to HLB. In the mean time we have to buy time by keeping our trees healthy, eliminating uncared for trees, and first and foremost stop the spread of HLB in California by controlling ACP with every means available.”