USDA will grant $22 million for research on citrus greening disease - the pathogen that has devastated citrus production in Florida.
"Thanks to the continued, coordinated efforts between growers, researchers, and state and federal government, we are getting closer every day to ending this threat (of citrus greening)," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement. "The funding will help us continue to preserve thousands of jobs for citrus producers and workers, along with significant revenue from citrus sales."
USDA will make the funding available through the Specialty Crop Research Initiative's Citrus Disease Research and Extension Program (CDRE). Since 2009, the department was invested over $380 million to address citrus greening, which was first detected in Florida in 2005. Today, all of Florida's citrus groves are affected by the disease, and 15 other states or territories have been fully or partially quarantined after the Asian citrus psyllid, a vector for citrus greening, was detected.
At the end of 2013, USDA released a Multi-Agency Coordination framework aimed at fostering cooperation across federal and state agencies and the citrus industry to fight the disease. The framework was developed with help from USDA's Animal Plant Health Inspection Service, National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and Agricultural Research Service, in addition to the EPA and the state agriculture departments of California, Florida, Texas and Arizona.
Since then, the group has invested $20 million into more than 30 research projects that led to the development of thermotherapy, soil acidification, biocontrol and other tools. According to USDA, the group is now mulling over how to spend the $5 million appropriation it received in 2016.
In past years, USDA funded the following projects:
·The University of Florida and Washington State University received NIFA funding to grow the putative pathogenic bacterium in artificial culture.
·The University of Florida is working to develop bactericides to reduce or eliminate pathogen populations in citrus trees.
·The University of California is using virulence proteins from the pathogen to detect its presence before symptoms appear. It's also developing strategies to create citrus rootstocks that are immune the disease.
·NIFA will prioritize grant applications that propose multi-state, multi-institutional or trans-disciplinary projects that can be commercialized. Projects should also include "an economic analysis of the costs associated with proposed solutions. Pre-applications are due May 16, and full applications are due Aug. 18.