U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced more than $1.5 million in funding to expand biocontrol efforts to fight citrus greening (aka, Huanglongbing, HLB). This action is the first designation of funds by the HLB Multi-agency Coordination Group (HLB MAC Group) since it was established by Vilsack in December.
The funds announced have enabled USDA to sign cooperative agreements with Florida (Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumers Services), Texas (Texas Citrus Pest and Disease Management Corp.), and California (Citrus Research Board and California Department of Food and Agriculture) to coordinate the fight against HLB. These joint efforts will significantly increase the production of the parasitic wasp known to control populations of the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP).
Florida, Texas, and California have developed biocontrol expansion plans that factor in regional elements in order to quickly bolster biocontrol production and release. This will expand the ability to control the ACP on a larger scale, especially in urban areas where citrus trees grow in yards as well as organic orchards.
Vilsack created the HLB MAC Group to foster greater coordination among federal and state agencies in responding to citrus greening. The Group includes representatives from USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Agricultural Research Service, and National Institute of Food and Agriculture, as well as state departments of agriculture and the citrus industry. The HLB MAC Group serves to coordinate and prioritize federal research with industry’s efforts to complement and fill research gaps, reduce unnecessary duplication, speed progress, and more quickly provide practical tools for citrus growers to use.
Vilsack also announced the appointment of three individuals to serve on the Citrus Disease Subcommittee, a subcommittee of the National Agricultural Research, Extension, Education, and Economics (NAREEE) Advisory Board’s Specialty Crop Committee. The following members have been appointed to a three-year term to expire on Sept. 30, 2016:
- David F. Howard, vice president, Graves Brothers Company in Vero Beach, FL;
- Matthew McLean, CEO and founder of Uncle Matt’s Organics in Clermont, FL; and
- Justin D. Brown, vice president and general manager, D Bar J Orchards, Inc. in Orange Grove, CA.
The Citrus Disease Subcommittee advises the Secretary of Agriculture on citrus research, extension, and development needs, engages in regular consultation and collaboration with USDA, and provides recommendations for research and extension activities related to citrus disease.
The new members of the Citrus Disease Subcommittee will start work when the subcommittee holds its first meeting May 19.