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North-Central Florida Facility Performs Vital Role for Citrus Industry

March 26, 2015

Chiefland Citizen staff writer Ashley Thornton nicely describes the role of the FDACS/DPI Budwood Repository in this article, published in the “In Our Backyard” section of the newspaper.  

In Our Backyard 

Much of Florida’s citrus gets 

its start in Chiefland

By ASHLEY THORNTON

athornton@chieflandcitizen.com

When most people think of citrus in the state, areas in South Florida may come to mind, but an important resource for citrus just happens to be right here in our backyard.

“Very few people fathom growing citrus in North Florida,” said Ben Rosson, Operations and Management Consultant Manager at the Bureau of Citrus Budwood Registration in Chiefland.

IMG_9508

Photo by Ashley Thornton Ben Rosson explains the budwood process at the Citrus Budwood facility outside Chiefland. (Photos: Ashley Thornton)

Rosson said their goal at the facility is to protect all citrus varieties and provide clean source material to the industry. He said they are the germplasm repository for the state.

“As the Division of Plant Industry-Bureau of Citrus Budwood Registration-Chiefland Budwood Foundation, we are tasked with providing high yielding, pathogen tested, quality budlines that will positively impact the productivity and prosperity of our citrus industry,” Rosson said in an email on Monday.

There are over 500 different varieties of citrus grown in the greenhouses at the Budwood facility, Rosson said, adding they have pretty much every variety in the state legally. They’re mainly here to protect those varieties and help commercial citrus nurseries, he said. The facility sends out budwood to nurseries for use in creating their own scion trees for budwood production, increase trees for 36 months or to fill a commercial order. He said they also work with research agencies, such as the United States Department of Agriculture and the University of Florida and send them material for their research projects.

The facility secured funding from the legislature with the help of their commissioner, director and various nurserymen and growers throughout the state which allowed them to build a fifth greenhouse that houses primarily commercial varieties, he said.

IMG_9510Rosson said the Bureau is also tasked with bringing in citrus varieties from out of the country and state, cleaning them up and releasing them to the citrus industry. He said it’s the same with varieties researchers create. The average clean up time before a variety is released at the Budwood facility is about two years, Rosson said, adding the process involves testing for every known disease of citrus to make sure they’re completely clean when introduced at the facility. Even then, the plants must spend one month in a separated screen room to see if they exhibit any disease symptoms, he said.

The facility is pretty much self sufficient, Rosson said due to the money made selling to growers and nurseries. All proceeds go into their FDACS Division of Plant Industry general trust fund. They also have inmate labor, cleaning up and mowing, which he said helps them to save money. In the past, he said, production would slow down during cooler times of the year, but now they’re busy year around.

In 2006, Rosson said they were looking for a place to move their foundation grove, originally located in Winterhaven. Andrew’s Nursery, their sister agency with the Department of Agriculture, Florida Forest Services offered them land to build their greenhouses on. He said hurricanes destroyed their screen houses at the original location and they were looking for a place that would be out of the historical strike zone of hurricanes and also mentioned the disease pressure of being in the citrus belt. 

Construction was complete in September 2007 and in October 2007 they had plants in the ground. They now have about four acres under greenhouses, he said.

“We’re pretty under the radar,” Rosson said, adding they do not take plant questions at the facility due to the possibility of plant pests or disease pathogens being introduced there. To avoid the same risk, employees there change into uniforms upon arriving at work and walk through an anti-bacterial soap spray and double entries with forced air before entering the greenhouses. They are also only allowed to sell to certified and registered citrus nurseries and research agencies, according to rule 5B-62, said Rosson, which also governs the procedures for keeping the citrus pest and pathogen free.

For more information on citrus in Florida, contact your local county extension service.

-30-

Posted by permission of the Chiefland Citizen

 

 

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