USDA awards $20 million in citrus greening research grants

February 9, 2016

The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded $20.1 million in grants to university researchers for research and extension projects to help citrus producers fight Huanglongbing (HLB), commonly known as citrus greening disease. This funding is available through the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) Citrus Disease Research and Extension Program (CDRE), which was authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill and is administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

The SCRI program addresses critical needs of the specialty crop industry by awarding grants to support research and extension activities that address key challenges of national, regional, and multi-state importance in sustaining all components of food and agriculture, including conventional and organic food production systems.

HLB was initially detected in Florida in 2005 and has since affected the vast majority of Florida’s citrus-producing areas. It has also been detected in Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Texas and several residential trees in California. Additionally, it has been detected in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and 14 states in Mexico. A total of 15 U.S. states or territories are under full or partial quarantine due to the detected presence of the Asian citrus psyllid, a vector for HLB.

Fiscal year 2015 grants include:

  • University of California, Riverside, Calif., $3,990,772
  • University of Central Florida, Orlando, Fla., $1,975,000
  • University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla., $2,800,000
  • University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla., $3,999,508
  • USDA Agricultural Research Service, Ithaca, N.Y., $1,951,763
  • New Mexico Consortium, Los Alamos, N.M., $3,320,000
  • Washington State University, Pullman, Wash., $2,115,000

Research at the University of Florida and Washington State University will focus on growing the putative pathogenic bacterium in artificial culture, which will greatly facilitate research efforts to manage HLB. Another project at the University of Florida will develop morpholino-based bactericides to reduce pathogen transmission and eliminate infections in existing trees. Research at the University of California will use virulence proteins from the pathogen to detect its presence before symptoms appear and to develop strategies for creating citrus rootstocks that are immune to HLB.

Press release