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State-of-the-Art U.S. Horticultural Research Lab Opens / April 17, 2000 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

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State-of-the-Art U.S. Horticultural Research Lab Opens

By Jesús García
April 17, 2000

FT. PIERCE, Fla., April 17, 2000--The Agricultural Research Service today reaffirmed its commitment to providing cutting-edge research to the agricultural community it serves by dedicating a new $33 million U.S. Horticultural Research Laboratory here.

“ARS is proud of the more than 100 years of dedicated service this laboratory has provided,” said Floyd P. Horn, administrator of ARS. “Through its research, this laboratory has been instrumental in developing a variety of citrus production practices that have helped the industry succeed in a highly competitive global marketplace.”

The new 170,000 square-foot facility, situated on 350 acres, is adjacent to the University of Florida’s Indian River Research and Education Center and is more than double the size of the laboratory previously located in Orlando, Fla. Its increased proximity to field sites and agricultural areas allows ARS scientists to be in greater contact with the growers who directly benefit from their research. ARS is the chief scientific agency in the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Since its founding in 1892 in Eustis, Fla., the U.S. Horticultural Research Laboratory has developed a variety of programs aimed at alleviating citrus crop production problems, promoting pest and disease control, and solving postharvest problems of subtropical fruit, vegetables and other horticultural crops.

Of particular note has been the laboratory’s research in developing new citrus varieties, disease-resistant rootstock, and biological pest controls. For example, in 1930, the laboratory released the tangelo to Florida nurseries. This crop’s current value approaches $10 million. In 1934, the laboratory released the citrus rootstock called Carizzo. Currently, more than 60 percent of all citrus trees in the United States are grafted onto this rootstock.

In 1972, the lab introduced a family of microhymenopteran parasites to control scale insects. In the early 1970s that research was expanded to identify a family of parasites that would control the citrus blackfly. As a result, neither scale nor blackfly is now considered a threat to the Florida citrus industry. That accomplishment was followed, in 1974, by the release of the Swingle citrumelo citrus rootstock. Resistantto citrus nematodes and citrus blight, this rootstock now comprises 51 percent of Florida’s nursery stock.

In 1982, the U.S. Horticultural Research Laboratory helped increase citrus exports by developing a cold treatment for grapefruit that enabled it to be exported to Japan and other countries with quarantines to protect against the importation of pests and disease.

The citrus root weevil’s potential to inflict significant crop losses was diminished when, in 1990, the lab identified three nematode species as effective forms of biological control. Today, growers throughout Florida use these commercially grown nematodes to combat the weevil. And in 1992, the lab patented a test to differentiate severe strains of citrus tristeza, a tree-killing virus.

“This new state-of-the-art laboratory enjoys a legacy of celebrated scientific accomplishment,” said Horn. “The facility will enable our researchers to build upon that legacy and to continue providing the citrus, vegetable and ornamental industries with the timely scientific support they need.”

Scientific contact: Dr. Richard Mayer, ARS U.S. Horticultural Research Laboratory, Ft. Pierce, Fla., phone (561) 462-5810, rmayer@ushrl.ars.usda.gov.

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