The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded $20.1 million in grants to further research to combat citrus greening disease, according to a Feb. 8 USDA press release. The grants were made available to university researchers for research and extension projects through the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) Citrus Disease Research and Extension (CDRE) Program, which is administered by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). SCRI is tasked with awarding such grants to support research and extension activities that address challenges faced by the specialty crop industry.
Since Huanglongbing (HLB), more commonly known as citrus greening disease, was first detected in Florida in 2005, it has been found in other Southern states and in residential trees in California. The disease has also been detected in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and parts of Mexico. Fifteen U.S. states and territories where the presence of the Asian citrus psyllid, a vector for HLB, has been detected are under full or partial quarantine.
“Citrus greening has affected more than 75 percent of Florida citrus crops and threatens production all across the United States,” USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack was quoted in the release. “The research and extension projects funded today bring us one step closer to providing growers real tools to fight this disease, from early detection to creating long-term solutions for the industry, producers, and workers.”
Among the fiscal year 2015 grantees are the University of California-Riverside, the University of Central Florida, the University of Florida, and Washington State University. According to the release, funded projects include research at the University of Florida and Washington State University that will focus on growing the putative pathogenic bacterium in artificial culture, which will facilitate research efforts to manage the disease, and research at the University of California that will focus on detecting disease presence before the appearance of symptoms and developing strategies for creating HLB-immune citrus rootstocks. Information about all of this year’s grantees and funded research projects, all of which meet the priorities recommended by the Citrus Disease Subcommittee, can be found on the NIFA website.
Caption: Oranges infected with citrus greening (Huanglongbing, or HLB). Credit: Photo courtesy of USDA ARS.