US citrus greening problem gets more federal funding to find solutions

US citrus greening problem gets more federal funding to find solutions

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced $30 million in funding Feb. 9 for 22 projects to help citrus producers combat Huanglongbing , also known as citrus greening.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced $30 million in funding Feb. 9 for 22 projects to help citrus producers combat Huanglongbing , also known as citrus greening, a devastating citrus disease that threatens U.S. citrus production.

The money will fund projects to offer near-term solutions as well as research funding that may develop long-terms solutions. The promising near-term tools and solutions are funded through the HLB Multiagency Coordination Group while the research projects are funded through the Specialty Crop Research Initiative Citrus Disease Research and Education program, which is made available through the Agricultural Act of 2014.

"Our HLB Multi-Agency Coordination Group has worked closely with the citrus industry to select and fund projects that we think will make a real difference for growers against HLB," said Vilsack.

USDA's HLB Multi-Agency Coordination Group funded fifteen projects for a total of more than $7 million. All of them are designed to provide near-term tools and solutions to help the citrus industry fight HLB including:

  • Two projects to provide improved delivery of thermotherapy to HLB infected trees, a promising treatment that has shown to help infected trees regain productivity after treatment. One of these projects will test thermotherapy on a grove-wide scale.
  • Six projects to provide citrus producers with best management practices in Florida citrus groves.
  • One project will focus on lowering the pH of the irrigation water and soil to strengthen the root systems of citrus trees to help them better tolerate HLB infection.
  • Three projects will support different combinations of integrated management approaches for sustaining production in trees in different stages of infection.
  • Two projects will test strategies for preventing tree death due to HLB infection. One of those will field test rootstocks that have shown ability to tolerate HLB infection. The other will use technologies to rapidly propagate the tolerant material for field use by the industry.
  • Three projects to increase early detection of HLB.
  • One project will train dogs to detect HLB infected trees. Detector dogs have proven to be highly adept at detecting citrus canker and early results suggest they will be an effective early detection tool for HLB.
  • One project will develop a root sampling and testing strategy.
  • One project will compare several promising early detection tests.
  • Four projects to provide tools to kill the Asian citrus psyllid, the vector of HLB.
  • One will produce and release the insect Diaphorencyrtus aligarhensis as a second biological control agent in California.
  • One project will use a biocontrol fungus to kill ACP adults.
  • One project will use a trap to attract and kill ACP adults.
  • One project will increase the use of field cages for the production of the insect Tamarixia radiata in residential areas, especially those that are adjacent to commercial groves in Texas. Tamarixia has already proven to be an effective biological control agent for ACP.

In addition to these projects, USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture funded more than $23 million dollars for research and education project to find lasting solutions to citrus greening disease. Examples of funded projects include developing HLB-resistant citrus cultivars, the development of field detection system for HLB, using heat as a treatment for prolonging productivity in infected citrus trees, creating a new antimicrobial treatment, among others.

Fiscal year 2014 grants have been awarded to:

  • University of California, Davis, Calif., $4,579,067
  • University of California, Riverside, Calif., $1,683,429
  • University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla., $4,613,838
  • University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla., $3,495,832
  • University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla., $3,338,248
  • University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla., $2,096,540
  • Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kan., $3,734,480
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