The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Huanglongbing Multi-Agency Coordination Group has allocated more than $1.5 million toward expanding biological control efforts.
It marks the first time that the group, appointed by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in December 2013, has funded an HLB project.
The money will allow cooperative projects in Florida, Texas and California to increase production of a parasitic wasp that helps control the Asian citrus psyllid, according to a news release.
The psyllid is a concern because it spreads HLB, also known as citrus greening. Although the bacterial disease is harmless to humans or animals, it can be deadly to citrus trees.
Each state has developed a biocontrol plan based on regional factors to speed wasp production and release.
Using biological control will enhance citrus psyllid control on a larger scale, especially in urban areas with citrus and in organic citrus groves, according to the release.
click image to zoomCourtesy University of California, RiversideThis minute stingless wasp can parasitize and kill more than 500 Asian citrus psyllids in a lifetime.HLB biocontrol involves the pinhead-sized stingless wasp, known scientifically as Tamarixia radiata, which is native to India.
A female wasp lays one or two eggs beneath an immature Asian citrus psyllid.
The newly hatched larva feeds on the psyllid, eventually killing it.
In addition to parasitism, adult female wasps feed on younger psyllid nymphs.
A single female wasp can kill more than 500 psyllids, according to University of Florida research.
The coordinating group includes the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the Agricultural Research Service and the National Institute for Food and Agriculture as well as state departments of agriculture and the citrus industry.
It was formed in response to a call from the citrus industry to better coordinate HLB programs and avoid duplication.