A grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) is intended to advance research to help organic citrus producers fight HLB disease. The grant awards $2.03 million to a team of scientists from the University of Florida, Texas A&M University and The Organic Center. The Organic Center is a non-profit organization convening evidence-based science on the health and environmental impacts of organic food and farming. The grant funds a four-year project.
Huanglongbing (HLB), also known as citrus greening, is the most serious disease of citrus. The disease is spread by the Asian citrus psyllid (Diaphorina citri) (ACP), which has been present in Florida since 1998. ACP transmits the bacteria to the tree when feeding on new shoots. There is no current cure for this disease and all commercial varieties of citrus are susceptible to HLB.
“Citrus greening continues to devastate the citrus industry, and organic growers need to have organic solutions to fight this deadly disease without resorting to dangerous chemicals or genetic engineering,” said Amber Sciligo, director of science programs for The Organic Center.
HLB is in Texas but its reach has been limited by very proactive grower programs and support. This research will be specific to organic growers who don’t use conventional chemicals for Asian citrus psyllid control but depend on preventative steps and biological controls. This research will protect two valuable resources, the Texas citrus industry and the organic citrus growers who supply consumers with a safe, organic fruit crop every year.