U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced $30 million in funding for 22 projects to help citrus growers combat huanglongbing (HLB), also known as citrus greening disease, which is spread by the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP). The money will fund promising projects that could offer near-term solutions, and research funding that may develop long-terms solutions.
“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. “Funding these projects through cooperative agreements puts us one step closer to putting real tools to fight this disease into the hands of citrus growers.”
Seven million dollars will be used for projects that support thermotherapy, best management practices, pest-control efforts, and early detection, including one that will train dogs to detect HLB-infected trees. Four projects will be used to provide alternative tools to kill the Asian citrus psyllid, including two that use biological control — one that will produce and release parasitoid wasps (Diaphorencyrtus aligarhensis) in California, and another that will use an entompathogenic fungus to kill ACP adults.
In addition to these and other projects, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture is funding more than $23 million dollars for research and education projects to find lasting solutions to citrus greening disease. Examples of funded projects include developing HLB-resistant citrus cultivars, the development of field detection systems for HLB, using heat as a treatment for prolonging productivity in infected citrus trees, and creating a new antimicrobial treatment, among others.
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