An expanse of nearly 9,500 square feet of compacted sand is ready for concrete, superstructure and netting to serve as the home of the Center for Louisiana Citrus Innovation and Research at Docville Farm in Violet, Louisiana.
A partnership between the LSU AgCenter and the Arlene and Joseph Meraux Charitable Foundation, the research center will be home to a comprehensive program of strengthening the Louisiana citrus industry, said Chris Haines of the Meraux Foundation.
The Meraux Foundation is constructing the new citrus research facility at Docville Farm, its home base that is dedicated to educational and cultural purposes. It also has established a $320,000 endowment to create four professorships to support citrus and commercial horticulture research that will take place there.
“We are proud to once again partner with the LSU AgCenter,” said Bill Haines of the Meraux Foundation. “This is another major milestone in the development of Docville Farm that will rejuvenate the citrus industry in St. Bernard Parish, across southeast Louisiana and beyond.”
The research facility will serve as a permanent demonstration of best practices for containerized citrus production, said LSU AgCenter commercial horticulture specialist Jeb Fields.
Growing citrus trees in containers and within protective screens will provide pest control and allow more trees to be grown per acre. And the microclimates will provide a buffer from freezing, he said.
A significant advantage is to protect the trees from citrus greening disease, which is caused by a bacterium that’s carried by an insect called citrus psyllid, and citrus canker.
“This will be a good opportunity for sustaining the industry in Louisiana,” Fields said. “We’re looking forward to training the next generation of Louisiana citrus farmers.”
While increasing the number of trees per acre, the greenhouse environment also will provide opportunities for interplanting other crops, peculiarly while the citrus trees are maturing.
With the infrastructure provided by the Meraux Foundation, the AgCenter applied for and received a specialty crop grant from the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry to get the containerized citrus research and demonstration program started.
“This will be a great opportunity to serve the citrus producers in Louisiana,” said AgCenter urban horticulturist Anna Timmerman, who will be working with the project. “It also has the potential for fresh fruit production and marketing on a small footprint in a small city lot.”
The citrus research facility is not the first time the Meraux Foundation and the LSU AgCenter have partnered to deliver on a shared vision. For the past seven years, the two groups have produced AgMagic on the River, an annual educational event that takes visitors on an interactive journey that links Louisiana’s agriculture and environment with people’s everyday lives.
In addition, the Meraux Foundation has established a $150,000 endowment for the LSU AgCenter State Livestock Show.
The Meraux Foundation is a private 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that was established by Arlene Meraux to benefit the community of St. Bernard Parish by leveraging its landholdings.
Today, the foundation’s board of directors is presided over by Arlene’s niece, Rita Gue, and consists of members Floyd Gue, Bill Haines, Chris Haines and Sidney Torres III. Guided by Arlene’s vision, the board is implementing an innovative strategy to create lasting change and build a better St. Bernard Parish.
More information is available online at merauxfoundation.org.