USDA allocates $31.5 million to citrus greening research

06/12/2014 11:54:00 AM
Vicky Boyd

citrus greeningCourtesy Agricultural Research ServiceCitrus greening, a bacterial disease of citrus, is harmless to humans or other animals. It has caused more than $3.6 billion in losses to the Florida citrus industry.The U.S. Department of Agriculture has allocated $31.5 million to help fund citrus greening research.

Of that, $25 million is from the recently passed 2014 Farm Bill, whereas another $6.5 million is from USDA's Multi-Agency Coordinating Group.

Altogether, the farm bill contains $125 million to be spent on citrus greening research over the legislation's five-year life, according to a news release.

The MAC funding will go toward three new research projects.

The first, which will receive $2 million, will field test anti-microbial compounds that have already showed promise in controlling the greening bacterium in lab tests.

Among those are oxytetracycline and streptomycin.

Neither are registered for use on citrus, says Tom Turpen, a principal with the Technology Innovation Group and program manager for the Citrus Research and Development Foundation.

The key will be developing a way to deliver the antibiotics economically to the tree.

The second, also $2 million, will help fund a large-scale trial looking at thermotherapy.

Thermotherapy uses heat or steam, reaching more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit, to help reduce the amount of greening bacteria in the tree.

It is not a cure, but it can reduce the infection levels and prolong the productive life of a tree, says Reza Ehsani, a University of Florida associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering based at the Citrus Research and Education Center.

He presented his latest research findings on thermotherapy at the Citrus Industry Conference, June 12, in Bonita Springs.

In his field trials near Ft. Pierce, Ehsani found that treating the trees with steam heated to more than 130 degrees for less than a minute doubled yields and increased individual fruit size.

The remaining $2.5 million will go to develop several model groves within Citrus Health Management Areas.

The groves will showcase best management practices for how to produce a healthy citrus crop in the era of HLB.

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