Growers Needed to Aid Development of HLB Tool

Josh McGill HLB Management, Research

Excelsior Aerospace Corporation announced it is pursuing funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to build a free tool that can rapidly detect, track and manage huanglongbing (HLB) disease.

“On one end, our tool would serve growers in states such as Texas and California to detect early symptoms of ACP (Asian citrus psyllid) and HLB infection and take measures to quarantine and eliminate the disease and its vector,” said Excelsior Aerospace President Marc Lowen. “On the other end, we would support growers, particularly in Florida, to deal with much more advanced stages of the disease by tracking the progress of HLB and steps that are taken to fight the spread, such as insecticide application and introduction of ACP predator species.”

HLB Tool

Lowen said the online management tool would recognize methods that are meeting the greatest success in eliminating ACP and reducing the impact of HLB. As improved methods emerge, they will be provided as recommendations to growers, along with the relevant data showing the level of impact.

“Since the HLB detection and tracking tool would be funded by the USDA, it will always be free to growers,” Lowen said.

The company is seeking grower commitments to participate in testing and development of the tool. “Our greatest need is for … participants who will allow us to perform aerial surveys of their crops, capturing data using hyperspectral cameras,” Lowen said. “That data will be used in refining our HLB detection tool and validating its accuracy. Feedback on the tool, data collection methods, and online tracking and management system will be welcome as well.” The company is also seeking collaborators to only provide input on the detection tool and management system, and to respond to surveys, “helping us to fit the platform to their needs,” Lowen said.

Growers interested in participating can fill out an industry stakeholder interest survey.

“If the USDA selects our project for funding, we are planning to formally begin testing and development in September of 2022 and continue through August of 2024,” Lowen said. “Growers may opt to participate for all or only a portion of the project.”

Source: Indian River Citrus League

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