USDA Commits $23 Million to Citrus Greening Research

April 14, 2015 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced $23 million in funding to support research and extension projects aimed at fighting citrus greening disease, also known as Huanglongbing (HLB), a bacterial disease that has infected more than 75 percent of Florida’s citrus crop since appearing in the U.S. a decade ago.

The USDA grants, available through the agency’s Citrus Disease Research and Education Program (CDRE), are available to researchers investigating both organic and conventional approaches to controlling the spread of HLB.

"Citrus greening threatens citrus production in the United States and other nations," said Vilsack. "Only long-term solutions through research will help to stop this disease that threatens the livelihoods of thousands of citrus producers and workers and billions of dollars in sales."

The CDRE grants will be administered by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). NIFA will give priority to projects that are multistate, multi-institutional, or trans-disciplinary and include clearly defined mechanisms to communicate results to producers. Successful applicants will be expected to engage stakeholders to ensure solutions are commercially feasible. Projects should also include an economic analysis of the costs associated with proposed solutions.

Organic Farming Research Foundation Executive Director Brise Tencer encouraged organic researchers to apply for funding, noting that organic citrus growers have fewer tools to fight HLB, and non-pesticide based treatment and management options would be useful to both organic and conventional growers.

The spread of HLB has triggered a sharp increase in pesticide application, which in turn has resulted in increased pesticide resistance among the insects spreading HLB. 

HLB has so far been detected in Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina, and small areas in Texas and one residential tree in California. It has also been detected in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and 14 states in Mexico. A total of 15 states or territories are under full or partial quarantine due to the detected presence of the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP), a vector for HLB.

The new research funding, available through the USDA’s Citrus Disease Research and Extension Program (CDRE), comes on the heels of $23 million in citrus greening research funds granted by the agency in 2014.

Pre-applications that include a Stakeholder Relevance Statement are due on June 1, 2015. Applicants who are invited to submit full applications based on an industry relevancy review of the pre-applications will be required to submit full applications by Aug. 14, 2015. See the request for applications on the NIFA website for more information.

Image of Asian Citrus Psyllid courtesy of USDA

Maria Gaura - OFRF