Citrus industry fights for survival

02/26/2014 02:53:00 PM
Tom Karst

It could take ten years or so for that solution be available to growers, he said.

If the modified variety is indeed the answer, Stover said it will time to approve the trees by federal regulators and the limited amount of resistant trees will take time to propagate, he said. “It is a fairly slow process to go from having a dozen trees to having enough bud wood for 500,000 acres.”

The workshop did highlight the heavy investment by industry and government to fight the disease.

“We cannot manage or control this disease without a team effort,” said Marylou Polek, vice president of science and technology for the Citrus Research Board, Visalia, Calif.

Chavonda Jacobs-Young, associate administrator for national programs of the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, said the farm bill authorized $25 million per year through 2018 for the Emergency Citrus Disease Research and Extension Program.

Prakash Hebbar, with the Citrus Health Response Program with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, described the Citrus Health Response Program, a public-private partnership between the agency, university researchers, state departments of agriculture and industry scientists.

Hebbar said medium-term strategies from APHIS include epidemiological studies that will help develop models that can determine or predict the incursion and spread of HLB and other diseases. APHIS has also established public and/or private sector partnership to develop biological control technologies for the Asian citrus psyllid, he said.

Long term, Hebbar said researchers are looking to develop resistant/tolerant citrus trees, maintain bearing citrus trees even if they are infected with HLB, early detection methods for the citrus greening disease and methods to trace infectious psyllid populations and limit encroachment into citrus production areas.

Polek said researchers are trying to release parasitic wasps inside field tents in citrus groves.

However, Polek said the wasps have been attacked by Argentine ant populations because the ants try will protect the psyllids because they feed on their sticky secretions.

The spread of the Asian citrus psyllid could threaten organic farms, and researchers have a dilemma about how to devise treatment programs for both conventional and organic growers. Polek said chemical treatments in urban areas isn’t sustainable, so the wasps will be used.



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