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Citrus Center awarded over $1,000,000 in grant funding from the United States Department of Agriculture

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The Texas A&M University-Kingsville Citrus Center has been awarded over $1,000,000 in grant funding from the United States Department of Agriculture to continue imperative citrus research in Weslaco.

 

Citrus Center Interim Director, Dr. Mamoudou Sétamou and his team have been awarded funding from the United States Department of Agriculture - Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) for their project Citrus Commodity Pest Survey 2020-2021 in the amount of $536,840. They were also awarded funding from USDA-APHISfor a project entitled Enhancing Productivity of HLB-endemic Orchards via Improved Soil-health Management in the amount of $433,860. USDA-APHIS also provided funding for the project The Texas Citrus Clean Plant Program 2020-2021 in the amount of $111,106.

 

“The research team of scientists at the Citrus Center are amazing. We are so limited in number in regards to faculty-scientists, and yet these four scientists bring in over $3 million annually in external research funding to help the citrus industry through research,” said, Dr. Shad Nelson, Dean of the Dick and Mary Lewis Kleberg College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

 

According to Nelson, the only stable resource to combat challenges that the citrus industry faces, is through the acquisition of external research funding. Without the high grant productivity of the few scientists located at the Texas A&M-Kingsville  Citrus Center, the citrus industry would not be as sustainable as it is today. Preservation of the Texas citrus market is essential, and only A&M-Kingsville  has a long-term vested interest in the research needs to serve citrus producers.

 

“That is stellar productivity, and they do this while teaching courses and training graduate students as well. Few faculty work harder than those located at the Citrus Center, and their annual research dollars is just one example of that high energy-high impact work they do each day in the cause for helping our citrus producers,” Nelson said.

 

“Without the Texas A&M-Kingsville Citrus Center, we put a great risk of not having available the very best and most sweet deep red varieties of grapefruit in the world market today. No other state or worldwide produces the sweetness that the Lower Rio Grande Valley citrus producer provide.”

 

As specified by Nelson, the industry is at constant threat, due to urban sprawl overtaking prime orchard lands, hurricanes, limited water supplies and drought, disease or exotic non-native pests. 

 

“Sound research is essential to keep the citrus market going and doing our best to assist the citrus growers to overcome and deal with these daily challenges,” Nelson added.

 

Citrus Commodity Pest Survey 2020-2021  

According to Sétamou,citrus production is an important economic activity in South Texas that utilizes around 2,000 people and contributes about $466 million in business activity to the state economy.

 

Biotic factors including pests and diseases are a major constraint to citrus production in Texas. Furthermore, this biotic landscape is constantly changing with exotic pests and diseases finding their way into Texas citrus groves.

 

For the past two decades alone, three pests and two diseases of significant importance have invaded Texas citrus. As for any invasive pest or disease, early detection is of paramount importance, as it allows for timely implementation of mitigation strategies before large distribution.

 

“Proactive surveys are the only viable approach for early detection of any invasive species. The goal of this project is to conduct statewide citrus commodity surveys for early detection of any new pests or diseases that would pave the way for possible eradication,” Sétamou said.

 

Enhancing Productivity of HLB-endemic Orchards via Improved Soil-health Management  

The primary purpose of this project is to evaluate grove floor management strategies that significantly improve soil/root health and enhance fruit production/quality in Huanglongbing (HLB) affected groves. HLB-associated loss of fine roots is recognized as one of the key triggers of gradual tree decline and subsequent loss of production and poor fruit quality.

 

“Strategies to improve soil health and stimulate root growth and function are needed to mitigate the negative effects of HLB on fruit yield and quality while ensuring long-term sustainability,” Sétamou said.

 

Project objectives will include (1) integration of soil health and grove floor management practices to minimize environmental stresses, promote tree health, and improve fruit quality in existing HLB affected groves; (2) conducting economic feasibility assessments of the improved practices; and (3) dissemination of outcomes to stakeholders.

 

The Texas Citrus Clean Plant Program 2020-2021 

This project is responsible for the operation of the Texas Citrus Budwood Certification Program and Texas Germplasm Introduction Program.

 

The Texas Citrus Clean Plant Program is a state-mandated program to maintain an extensive collection of clean certified citrus germplasm, and to introduce new citrus varieties, both public and proprietary, that are beneficial to Texas with a pathogen elimination program that includes shoot-tip grafting pathogen testing.  The Texas Citrus Clean Plant Program is the sole source for clean, pathogen-free, true-to-type foundation citrus budwood for the Texas citrus industry.

 

The Budwood Certification Program first began with the discovery of Citrus Tristeza Virus (CTV) in a Texas nursery, which resulted in a state-mandated program launched in 1996.  Since its inception, the program has been managed by the Citrus Center.  Foundation trees were established from two sources: the main commercial variety sources were selected in Texas, and underwent shoot tip grafting to eliminate graft transmissible pathogens; all other citrus varieties were obtained from the California Citrus Clonal Protection Program (CCPP).

 

About the Citrus Center

Since 1948, the Citrus Center serves the citrus industry of Texas by conducting basic and applied research and delivering innovative solutions which enable the citrus industry to remain competitive in an increasingly global marketplace. The Citrus Center fosters scientific excellence and capacity building by incorporating undergraduate and graduate student training into its research programs to develop highly-skilled professionals. This world-class research facility is internationally-known for developing the Rio Star and Ruby Red grapefruits. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Category: Ag/Env & Wildlife Sci , Awards/Honors , General Univ

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