GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The University of Florida Foundation today announced a second gift of $1.5 million from The Coca-Cola Co. in support of long-term research aimed at preventing a widespread disease that affects crops in Florida’s $9 billion citrus industry.
The contribution, to be distributed in $500,000 increments during the next three years, will be used to fund sustainable research programs managed by the Citrus Research and Development Foundation Inc., or CDRF. The CRDF is a UF direct support organization aimed at, among other things, eliminating the threat of citrus greening.
“This grant from Coca-Cola allows Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers to move farther, faster, as they work to find a cure for citrus greening,” said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “It takes everyone in the industry working together to fight this.”
This is Coca-Cola’s second $1.5 million contribution to UF’s CRDF in three years, bringing its total donation to $3 million. Coca-Cola-sponsored research has yielded potential interventions for disease control.
The company’s previous gift focused on the Asian citrus psyllid, a tiny insect that nibbles on citrus leaf sap and then infects the tree with the greening bacterium. The disease starves the tree of nutrients and produces fruits that are green and misshapen — unsuitable for sale as fresh fruit or juice. Most infected trees die within a few years. The disease has already affected millions of citrus trees in North America.
The Coca-Cola Co. is the world’s largest beverage company and the top provider of juices and juice drinks globally, including brands such as Minute Maid and Simply.
“Research to find a sustainable and environmentally conscious way to fight this disease is the best way we can support the entire value chain for the citrus industry,” said Iain McLaughlin, senior vice president of global stills and juice center for Coca-Cola. “Coca-Cola is committed to working with our partners in the citrus industry to help eradicate citrus greening. Solutions will benefit citrus growers worldwide and ensure that consumers continue to have access to the high-quality citrus fruit and juice.”
The Citrus Research and Development Foundation has collaborated with the National Academy of Sciences since 2009 to advance disease research to ensure the survival and competitiveness of Florida’s citrus growers.
“Matching their earlier contribution of three years ago, Coca-Cola’s now second generous contribution of $1.5 million reflects their full commitment to the fight of the Florida citrus growers against greening,” said Tom Jerkins, CRDF president. “Coca-Cola’s donation will amplify the speed and benefit of research and products available to the industry to eliminate this devastating disease.”
Although current methods to control the spread of citrus greening are limited to the removal and destruction of infected trees, UF/IFAS researchers are attempting everything from trying to eradicate the psyllid to breeding citrus rootstock that shows better greening resistance.