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To Boost Citrus Growth, NMC Battles Virus (December 17, 2009)

The Northern Marianas College recently stepped up its efforts to thwart the effects of a virus that is affecting local citrus plants. Once completed, the project is expected to facilitate the introduction of citrus plants as a potential cash crop.

Launched in 2007, the project, entitled the Field Evaluation of Commercial Citrus Rootstocks and Cultivars, is focused on improving the longevity, fruit quality, and quantity of citrus trees in the CNMI, which will include research to battle the Citrus Tristeza Virus, which is the culprit for most deaths of citrus plants in the CNMI.

Leading the project, which is centered at the NMC Tinian Agriculture Experiment Station, is the College’s Cooperative Research Extension and Education Service (CREES) 4-H Coordinator Lawrence Duponcheel and Plant Pathologist Dr. Dilip Nandwani.

“Citrus research centers around the world have identified and developed many virus- and disease-resistant citrus rootstocks that have proven instrumental in protecting our orchards from the devastating effects of viruses and diseases,” said Lawrence Duponcheel 4-H Coordinator. “We are working closely with these organizations in further procuring these rootstocks.”

NMC has already received virus-resistant rootstocks and budwood from the Citrus and Date Repository in California and introduced them into the CREES Experiment Station. Efforts are also underway to introduce other species.

“With the data we collect from studying the citrus rootstocks, we hope to gradually expand into the study of other plants, such as mango and avocado, which we have received from Hawaii and Florida,” said Dr. Dilip Nandwani, Plant Pathologist. “NMC’s Crop Production Team has also begun planning workshops and trainings in which we will display our progress so far.”

Through the study, the Crop Production Team will gather information highlighting specific citrus varieties best suited to local growing conditions, as well as consumer demands. This information will then be disseminated throughout the CNMI.

“This is yet another prime example of the College’s efforts to continuously enhance the services it offers to its clients and to the community,” said NMC President Dr. Carmen Fernandez.

The project, which will run up to July 2012, is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Hatch Act Funds, which supports infrastructure development.

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