New USDA funds for research to fight citrus greening

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United States Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the availability of $25 million in funding for research and Cooperative Extension Service projects to combat huanglongbing (HLB), commonly known as citrus greening disease. The funding comes from the 2014 Farm Bill. USDA allocated another $6.5 million, for a total of $31.5 million, to several other projects through its Huanglongbing Multi-Agency Coordination Group (HLB MAC).

"USDA is committed to the fight against citrus greening, including making major research investments to counter this destructive disease," said Vilsack. "The citrus industry and the thousands of jobs it supports are depending on groundbreaking research to neutralize this threat."

Today's announcement provides funding to the Citrus Disease Research and Education Program (CDRE) and is a supplement of the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI). The 2014 Farm Bill provides $25 million per year for a total of $125 million of the USDA Specialty Crop Research Initiative funding toward citrus health research over the next five years.

Because there are wide differences in the occurrence and progression of HLB among the states, there are regional as well as national priorities for CDRE. These priorities fall within four categories: 1) priorities that deal with the pathogen; 2) those that deal with the insect vector; 3) those that deal with citrus orchard production systems; and 4) those that deal with non-agricultural citrus tree owners. Priority will be given 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 insure solutions are commercially feasible. Projects should also include an economic analysis of the costs associated with proposed solutions. A letter of intent to apply is due to NIFA by June 27, 2014. Full applications, to be invited based on relevancy review, are due September 29, 2014.

Also today, USDA's Huanglongbing Multi-Agency Coordination Group (HLB MAC) announced funding allocations for three new projects to combat HLB. The first project will commit approximately $2 million to field test antimicrobials that have shown promise in combating HLB in laboratory and greenhouse studies. The second HLB MAC project, also funded for up to $2 million, will support the deployment of large-scale thermotherapy since studies have shown heating a tree to 120 degrees for approximately 48 hours can kill the HLB bacterium in the upper part of the tree, allowing the tree to regain productivity. This funding will address the challenge of identifying a quick and practical way for growers to use the technology on a large scale. For the third project, the MAC Group is providing about $2.5 million to establish several model groves in cooperation with Florida Citrus Health Management Areas. A model grove would use best management practices—including systematic surveys, timely chemical treatments, new planting strategies, and the removal of dead and abandoned groves – so growers can produce healthy citrus crops even in the presence of HLB.

Secretary Vilsack created the HLB MAC Group last December to foster greater coordination among federal and state agencies in responding to citrus greening. The Group includes representatives from USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Agricultural Research Service (ARS), and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), as well as State departments of agriculture and the citrus industry. The HLB MAC Group serves to coordinate and prioritize Federal research with industry's efforts to complement and fill research gaps, reduce unnecessary duplication, speed progress, and more quickly provide practical tools for citrus growers to use. Additional information on the activities of the HLB MAC Group, including regular updates on activities, can be found here.

The Farm Bill, which provided funding for today's investment in HLB research, builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill.

Through federal funding and leadership for research, education and extension programs, USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), which administers the Citrus Disease Research and Education Program, focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people's daily lives and the nation's future. For more information, visit www.nifa.usda.gov.


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