California groups are welcoming a congressional investment in research to fight a citrus disease that has ravaged other parts of the country.

The recently-passed omnibus spending bill to fund the federal government for the remainder of FY 2023 included more than $1 million to fund research to combat Huanglongbing — commonly referred to as either HLB or citrus greening for its impact on oranges. Another $1 million will go to the creation of a citrus breeding program at USDA’s Agricultural Research Service field station in Parlier, California.

According to a release from California Citrus Mutual, the new breeding program “will identify new citrus varieties that are best suited for changing climatic pressures such as drought, consumer taste preferences, and resistant to pests and diseases such as HLB.” A similar program is already underway in Florida and focuses on varieties best suited for that climate. CCM says the program “has resulted in new varieties with higher yields, increased disease resistance, improved color, and a longer shelf life.”

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“The addition of the breeding facility in Parlier will make the ARS Citrus Program a truly national project,” said CCM President and CEO Casey Creamer. “We look forward to watching the growth of this program and its collaboration with the UC breeding program to find solutions to the issues California citrus growers are faced with every day.”

Marcy Martin, president of the Citrus Research Board, echoed that thought, saying the expansion of the program “will have a significant impact on California’s citrus industry as growers aim to mitigate the evolving issues that affect production and increase yield through varietal research.”

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