UF/IFAS announces $1.5 million Tropicana gift for citrus faculty post focused on innovation
GAINESVILLE, Fla. â€“– Tropicana Products Inc., a division of PepsiCo Inc., has pledged $1.5 million to endow a professorship specializing in innovative citrus research to strengthen the Florida citrus industry, the nationâ€™s largest, University of Florida and Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences officials and company representatives announced today.
The endowment, to be known as â€śThe Tropicana Professorship for Florida Citrus Innovation,â€ť will support teaching, research and outreach efforts dedicated to the future of the stateâ€™s citrus industry.
The research is expected to target, among other things, advanced production systems, efficient water use, protection of natural diversity and sustainable citrus production.
Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources, said the gift is much needed. Payne said it will fund a professor who will target research efforts aimed at helping the industry become more sustainable.
â€śEvery agricultural industry must work to become more sustainable and our stateâ€™s citrus growers are helping lead the way,â€ť Payne said. â€śThe research goal here will be citrus trees that flourish with little impact on the environment. Itâ€™s a wonderful goal and this sort of corporate partnership is critical to helping us reach it.â€ť
A more sustainable citrus industry, he said, would mean trees that thrive with less fertilizer and irrigation than are currently required, and being able to plant more trees per acre.
Oranges have been grown in what is now the state of Florida since the 1560s, almost 150 years before they were reported anywhere else in what would later become the continental United States, according to historical records.
â€śAs the largest buyer of Florida oranges, ensuring that Florida citrus remains vital, competitive and sustainable for generations to come is paramount,â€ť said Neil Campbell, president of Tropicana Beverages, North America. â€śThe University of Florida is world renowned for its agricultural research and science initiatives and we can think of no better partner.â€ť
Tropicana Products Inc., a division of PepsiCo Inc., is a leading producer and marketer of branded fruit juices. PepsiCo is a global food and beverage company with net revenues of more than $65 billion.
Mike Haycock, vice president of operations for Tropicana, said that as a longtime member of the Florida citrus community, the company understands how important this is to the state because, â€śFlorida is where it all started for Tropicana back in 1947.
â€śThrough this work and investment, together, we will help drive innovation and create solutions for a sustainable future for the Florida citrus industry, which continues to face serious challenges,â€ť Haycock said.
The Tropicana gift follows another $1 million in USDA grant funding to UF/IFAS for citrus. Those funds will be used to support research aimed at preventing the insect that transmits citrus greening from being able to spread the disease.
Since 2006, the citrus greening, known to scientists as Huanglongbing, has cost Floridaâ€™s economy an estimated $4.54 billion in lost revenues and 8,257 jobs by reducing orange juice production, UF/IFAS studies have found.
Michael W. Sparks, executive vice president and the CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual, the largest cooperative associated dedicated to helping the stateâ€™s citrus growers, called Tropicanaâ€™s gift a much-needed one.
â€śFlorida citrus growers are currently facing the biggest disease challenge weâ€™ve ever faced in HLB and the only way we are going to beat it is in the laboratory,â€ť he said. â€śThis endowment is a huge step forward in strengthening the resources we have in the fight against HLB and Tropicana and UF-IFAS should be commended for their commitment to a sustainable future for our $9 billion industry.â€ť