Change can be stressful, offer benefits, and open doors to opportunity. Such is the case at the California Citrus Research Board (CRB).

On June 3, Ken Keck assumed the helm as president of the CRB. He succeeds retiring President Ted Batkin whose 20-year CRB career ends Sept. 30.

The CRB is a citrus research organization which administers the Citrus Research Program, a grower funded- and directed-program established under the California Marketing Act in 1968. The program enables California citrus producers to sponsor and support efforts to control pest and disease threats through research.

During separate sit down meetings with Batkin and Keck at the CRB headquarters in Visalia, the men discussed past, current, and future citrus threats.

Batkin, other CRB staff, plus researchers funded through the CRB program, have made tremendous research strides against many citrus scourges, including the industry’s current most perilous threat – the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) and the disease Huanglongbing (HLB).

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The tiny psyllid insect carries the Candidatus Liberibacter spp. bacterium in its body to a citrus tree where the pest feeds on foliage resulting in HLB infection.

HLB, also called citrus greening, has killed every HLB-infected tree in the world.

HLB was first found in the U.S. in Florida in 2005. Keck was on staff at the Florida Citrus Commission at the time. Keck brings to the CRB a wealth of knowledge and hands-on experience in the battles which Florida growers have won and lost against the ACP-HLB complex.

Batkin and Keck were asked if the California citrus industry can defeat HLB-ACP. Both emphatically said, “Yes!”