citrus production

Research to Help Organic Growers Fight HLB

Josh McGillOrganic, Research

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.  

organic growers

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.

Jawwad Qureshi, associate professor of entomology at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Southwest Florida Research and Education Center, is leading the team.

“The studies will provide tools to manage the spread of HLB and the insect that spreads the disease on organic farms and to integrate into the conventional and area-wide management programs,” said Quereshi. “This will help reduce the spread and severity of the HLB in the regions where this disease is present.”  

“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

Conventional strategies to control HLB have not yet proven effective, and most center around the application of chemical insecticides, which is prohibited by organic standards. Some growing areas have even mandated that chemical sprays be applied, with no organic alternatives being offered.

Laying the groundwork for the recent grant was an award in 2019 to the University of Florida and The Organic Center to assess research priorities for organic growers combating HLB. For that project, University of Florida researchers analyzed data collected in a survey of organic citrus growers to quantify current practices and research needs.

Established in 2002, OREI is USDA’s flagship organic research program. 

Source: The Organic Center

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