USDA announces $30 million to target citrus greeningUSDA’s Secretary Tom Vilsack announced $30 million will be put towards funding 22 projects that will help citrus producers fight Huanglongbing (HLB), also known as citrus greening, a devastating disease that threatens US production.

“Our HLB Multi-Agency Coordination Group has worked closely with the citrus industry to select and fund projects that we think will make a real difference for growers against HLB,” Vilsack said. “Funding these projects through cooperative agreements puts us one step closer to putting real tools to fight this disease into the hands of citrus growers." Vilsack continued, "Through the CDRE research we are announcing today, we are also investing in long-term solutions to diseases that threaten the long-term survival of the citrus industry.”

Projects for the funding include:

- Improved delivery of thermotherapy to HLB infected trees, a promising treatment that has shown to help infected trees regain productivity after treatment.

-Providing citrus producers with best management practices in Florida citrus groves.

- Lowering the pH of the irrigation water and soil to strengthen the root systems of citrus trees to help them better tolerate HLB infection.

- Strategies for preventing tree death due to HLB infection.

- Projects to increase early detection of HLB as well as others that will develop a root sampling strategy and several promising early detection tests.

Other projects will focus on management of the Asian citrus psyllid, the vector of HLB.

In addition to these projects, USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture funded more than $23 million dollars for research and education project to find lasting solutions to citrus greening disease.

Citrus greening is a bacterial disease that spreads internally throughout the plant. The disease, which is transmitted from infected plants to healthy ones by the Asian citrus psyllid, causes fruit to ripen unevenly and become lopsided, visibly smaller and bitter-tasting.

The threat of citrus greening is growing and the bacteria have already killed off millions of crops throughout the world. The disease was first discovered in the US in 2005 and can spread rapidly, killing a tree within four or five years.