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Ag research delivers critical answers for growers, consumers

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  • Current agricultural research dollars must be preserved and new funding sources identified – including private sector dollars - to keep ag research strong to sustain crop agriculture and protect the food supply.

As the football season shifts into high gear, televisions across the nation will display pigskin drama aplenty. I enjoy watching ‘Hail Mary’ touchdown tosses as the clock expires, and goal-line stands at the 1-foot line.

Football is a grid-iron sport where players make or break games, reputations, dreams, and futures.

Likewise, agricultural research can make or break a farm commodity. The ingenuity of research thinkers can unlock ideas to solve problems tied to lost yields, drought tolerance, plus pests and diseases.

A bottom line of research is to keep crop production economically viable for growers so they can produce the food and fiber to feed and clothe the burgeoning world population.

Some examples of successful agricultural research in the West include developing ways to protect various California fruit crops from the Mediterranean fruit fly and other exotic fruit flies.

Sterile insect technology has enabled the western cotton to control the pink bollworm and inch closer to possible eradication one day. Ag research has helped save the cotton industry and kept cotton “The Fabric of our Lives.”

Meanwhile, agricultural researchers worldwide have their sights set on a major threat to the global citrus industry. Their visions and those of others can save the global citrus industry; a $2 billion plus business in California and Arizona alone.

In recent years, Western Farm Press has reported on several western U.S. research endeavors aimed to manage or stop the citrus industry’s largest threat – the disease Huanglongbing – and the nasty Asian citrus psyllid insect which vectors a bacterium to citrus trees which leads to HLB infection.

The bottom line is without a cure for the HLB scourge or management techniques to keep citrus an economical crop for growers, the industry could be in big trouble. Every tree in the world infected with HLB has died.

Yet there is growing optimism that citrus researchers will find answers to the psyllid-HLB complex.

Ken Keck, the new California Citrus Research Board President, recently shared this perspective. “There is hope that early detection and prevention of HLB can write a different story in California than has been written around the world.”

Outgoing CRB President Ted Batkin shares the optimism. Batkin says, “The citrus industry is developing detection technologies which will allow us to find the bacteria early enough in the cycle to first eliminate the source of the inoculum and then attempt to prevent massive infestation of HLB in commercial groves.”

“We have the tools, the understanding, and the knowledge to do this,” Batkin says.

While there is tremendous value in ag research for growers and consumers, one of the greatest threats is decreased funding. The Great Recession caused local, county, state, and federal leaders to shrink budgets.

Current research dollars must be preserved and new funding sources identified – including private sector dollars - to keep ag research strong to sustain crop agriculture and protect the food supply.

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