Citrus foundation receives $9 million grant for psyllid studies

10/02/2012 04:16:00 PM
Vicky Boyd

Asian citrus psyllidThe U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded a $9 million grant to help fund studies of Asian citrus psyllid, the insect that spreads citrus greening.The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded a $9 million grant to the Citrus Research and Development Foundation to help prevent Asian citrus psyllid from spreading citrus greening.

The Lake Alfred, Fla.-based nonprofit foundation, which is partially funded by grower box-taxes, helps oversee research into challenges facing the citrus industry, according to a news release.

The University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences will receive about $1 million of that Specialty Crop Research Initiative grant over five years.

The Asian citrus psyllid spreads the bacterial disease when it feeds on infected citrus trees, then feeds on healthy ones.

Greening, also known as huanglongbing or HLB, is harmless to humans but can stunt, weaken and even kill citrus trees.

It is caused by the bacterium, Candidatus liberibacter, for which there is no known cure.

Citrus greening was first confirmed in Florida in 2005 and has since spread throughout most of the state's citrus-producing area.

The disease has cost Florida's economy about $3.63 billion in lost revenues since 2006, according to a University of Florida study.

The disease was confirmed earlier this year in a handful of commercial citrus groves in the Texas Rio Grande Valley.

In addition, the disease has been confirmed in a few residential or dooryard trees in Louisiana and South Carolina. Those trees have since been removed.

Although Asian citrus psyllid is also found in Southern California and Arizona, citrus greening has yet to be confirmed in those states.

The grant was one of several totaling $101 million that the USDA awarded earlier this week.

The Specialty Crop Research Initiative and associated funds are part of the 2008 farm bill.

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