GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University Florida named Michael Rogers as director of the Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred. He had been acting as interim director since November for the center, which operates under the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

CREC was established in 1917 after a group of Polk County citrus growers raised nearly $14,000 to purchase some land for a research station. Originally, only a few UF scientists were assigned to the Lake Alfred site, then called the Citrus Experiment Station. Today, CREC employs 250 people and is also home to the scientific research staff of the Florida Department of Citrus. It is the largest facility in the world devoted to a single commodity, citrus.

Rogers has a doctorate in entomology from the University of Kentucky and specializes in citrus integrated pest management.  He has focused on the Asian citrus psyllid, the insect that carries the bacterium that causes citrus greening, which is threatening to destroy the state’s $10.7 billion citrus industry.

“I’ve become more familiar with the research taking place in the many different programs at the CREC and it’s hard not to get excited about what’s to come in the future,” Rogers said. “The past eight months as interim director have been challenging but also very encouraging. Citrus greening disease has caused many in the Florida citrus industry to begin questioning how much longer they can hang on. While it may seem gloomy right now, there are bright days ahead for the Florida citrus industry.”

Citrus greening disease starves the tree of nutrients and produces fruits that are green and misshapen — unsuitable for sale as fresh fruit. Most infected trees die within a few years. The disease has affected millions of citrus trees in North America.

“Michael Rogers exemplifies what the CREC director should be – he is dedicated to research and finding a cure for citrus greening,” said Jack Payne, senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “He leads by example an outstanding faculty and research team in Lake Alfred and we look forward to working with him for many more years.”

Rogers takes the place of Jackie Burns, who, after more than 25 years at CREC, took over the position as IFAS’ dean for research Nov. 1.

“We have many talented scientists at the CREC and I’ve enjoyed doing what I can to help facilitate the many promising research projects underway,” Rogers said. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to continue to serve the faculty of the CREC as director.”