Last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced an investment of nearly $11 million toward research to combat Huanglongbing (HLB), the deadly citrus plant disease caused by a bacterium that can be carried by the Asian citrus psyllid.
“NIFA’s Emergency Citrus Disease Research and Extension program brings the nation’s top scientists together with citrus industry representatives to find scientifically sound solutions to combat and prevent HLB at the farm-level,” said NIFA Director Dr. Carrie Castille. “This year’s awards represent all three major U.S. citrus growing regions and include possible solutions ranging from blocking HLB transmission from inside the insect vector to utilizing novel anti-microbial peptides to treat HLB-infected trees.”
During the 2021 fiscal year, five Emergency Citrus Disease Research and Extension projects were funded. Among them, the University of California, Riverside, will use the funding to build on previous work and evaluate the performance of 300 hybrid citrus trees in established trials to map HLB tolerance/resistance genes and release superior new rootstocks.
HLB is considered the most destructive disease in citrus growing regions worldwide and has become the greatest challenge for the U.S. citrus industry. Currently, HLB has no cure. Since HLB’s initial U.S. detection in 2005, citrus acreage and production in Florida has decreased by 60% and 80%, respectively. The disease has spread to all citrus-producing states, including Texas and California. Thus far, California’s HLB detections have been limited to residential citrus trees. Although HLB is a serious threat to the citrus industry worldwide, significant progress has been made to coordinate a multipronged approach for HLB management and suppression of the Asian citrus psyllid, through expanding partnerships with USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, states, universities and private partners.
NIFA invests in and advances agricultural research, education and extension across the nation to make transformative discoveries that solve societal challenges. NIFA supports initiatives that ensure the long-term viability of agriculture and applies an integrated approach to ensure that groundbreaking discoveries in agriculture-related sciences and technologies reach the people who can put them into practice. In fiscal year 2020, NIFA’s total investment was $1.95 billion.