By Robin Koestoyo

Canker: A devasting disease with a devastating price.

UF/IFAS Indian River Research and  Education Center Associate Professor Brian Boman is concerned about the economic impact that citrus canker will have on the region and the industry’s employees. With 15,000 acres of the area’s canker-infected citrus groves to be pushed over, and with a two-year halt on replanting, the industry has yet to see how its labor force, packers, chemical and fertilizer suppliers will respond. Each knows that infected groves cannot produce profits again until 2012.

Indian River Citrus League Executive Director Doug Bournique said the citrus industry employs about 18 percent of the workforce along the Treasure Coast and has a $1.5 billion impact on the region.

“I don’t think anyone can predict the size and scope of what is happening,” he said. “But, the eradication plan is a tried and true method — everything I’ve heard validates the 1,900-foot rule. When we put an end to this canker — it will be gone.”

About 18,800 acres of the region’s groves have been earmarked for removal. Bournique said a few producers close to the area’s eastern quadrants are leaving the industry, but most are not.

Robby Johnson, a longtime St. Lucie County grower, will stay with his work, despite the devastation he has witnessed.

“There are so many different scenarios: some growers own 5,000 acres and lose 700 — they can survive,” he said. “Others who own less and lose most of their crop — they will hurt the most.”

Protecting the packinghouses and the industry is Bournique’s top priority. He is planning a trip to Washington, D.C., to lobby for funding needed to rehabilitate infected groves.

“It is my hope compensation will bridge the growers to the future,” said Bournique. “Without compensation, no one can get to the future.”

“Compensation is something we’re all counting on,” said Johnson. “Infected land will be idle for seven years.”

Looking forward, IRREC Director Brian Scully, who was forced to destroy all of the center’s trees, has aligned his sights with an industry that he believes is resilient to many crises.

“The Florida citrus industry has endured crises throughout its history, including canker in the 1930s, poor markets, low prices, and the freezes of 1983 and 1989, which all were devastating,” Scully said. “After each crisis the citrus industry has re-emerged again — but in a different form — and we are confident it will survive this crisis and thrive again.”


Center updates

Citrus Research & Education Center

Lake Alfred: Jude W. Grosser, University of Florida Professor of Cell Genetics, received the American Society for Horticultural Science Outsanding Researcher award.

Gulf Coast Research & Education Center

Balm: Chemist Arie Markus of the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel worked during the summer with Entomologist David Schuster evaluating microencapsulated formulations for managing whiteflies on tomatoes.

Everglades Research & Education Center

Belle Glade: The First Friday Seminar Series begins its fifth season at 10:45 a.m. Sept. 9 with Graham Kingston, visiting professor and director of BSES Limited in Australia. Kingston’s topic is “Sugar Down Under and Agronomic Impacts of the Green Cane System.”

North Florida Research & Education Center

Quincy: The UF/IFAS NFREC-Quincy will be hosting its Fall Field Day and Open House on Oct. 5. There will be research tours and demonstrations on fruits and vegetables and more. For more information, visit the Web site or call (850) 875-7100.

North Florida Research & Education Center

Suwannee Valley: “Agricultural Enterprise for North Florida” workshops will be held at the NFREC-Suwannee Valley at Live Oak on Nov. 9. Workshop topics will include fruit and nut crops, hydroponics, organics, forages and wildlife plots, farm pond management, pesticide applicator training (CORE CEUs), BMPs, etc. Call (386) 362-1725 for more information.

Southwest Florida Research & Education Center

Immokalee: A Squeezer Seminar on Sept. 28 will focus on “Current and Future Uses of Agricultural Reservoirs and Ditches for Water Supply and Water Quality Management.” SWFREC water resources scientist Sanjay Shukla will be among the presenters at the workshop, which runs from 10 a.m.-noon.  For more information or to register, contact Mongi Zekri at (863) 674-4092.

Tropical Research & Education Center

Homestead: Representatives Marco Rubio and Anitere Flores toured TREC to learn about the research, academic and extension programs offered in Miami-Dade County.