The Huanglongbing (HLB) MAC Group held its first face-to-face meeting in Riverdale, Md., on February 3 and 4, which included representatives from the California, Florida, and Texas citrus industry; Arizona, California, Florida, and Texas State departments of agriculture; USDA's Agricultural Research Service, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and National Institute of Food and Agriculture; and the Environmental Protection Agency.
MAC Group members clarified roles and responsibilities; identified several promising short-term, practical research opportunities; and began outlining the process for making funding decisions. Members will continue their discussions during weekly conference calls.
On February 7, the President signed the 2014 Farm Bill, which directs $125 million of the USDA Specialty Crop Research Initiative funding toward citrus health research over the next 5 years. This funding will greatly expand the overall research effort. While the Farm Bill funding won't go directly to the HLB MAC Group, the Group will serve as a resource for determining funding priorities to maximize the coordination and effectiveness of all huanglongbing-related research activities.
The HLB MAC Group has decided to establish two parallel processes for funding short-term, practical HLB research projects:
Direct Funding Process - The HLB MAC Group will develop research project proposals for some of the most promising tools identified by Group members, with input from stakeholders. Tools chosen will have been previously tested to a sufficient degree that the Group believes they are ready to be scaled up and deployed in large-scale field trials. The Group is reaching out to industry, academia, and State and Federal partners to collaboratively develop these projects. Examples of project proposals the Group has discussed include biological control (using tiny wasps to control Asian citrus psyllids populations) and thermotherapy (using heat treatment to kill the HLB-causing bacteria in infected trees).
Stakeholder Suggestion Process - The HLB MAC Group will use an online suggestion system. Industry, academia, and State and Federal researchers can submit short-term, practical solution suggestions for potential funding in the following five areas: 1) Psyllid management, 2) Pre-symptomatic HLB detection, 3) Therapies to protect existing trees, 4) Sustainability of new plantings, and 5) Inoculum management.
Evaluation and funding decisions for the Stakeholder Suggestion Process submissions will be based on how well they meet the HLB MAC Group's primary criteria of bringing short-term solutions to citrus growers. Additional details, including submission instructions, deadlines, and formatting for suggestions, are currently being developed. We anticipate that the Stakeholder Suggestion Process will be open for submissions in April of this year.
The Citrus Health Science and Technology Coordination Group, which was established in 2009 and consists of industry and government representatives, will provide input and review of proposals developed through both processes.
Stakeholders are welcome to e-mail any questions they may have regarding these funding processes to Dr. Mary Palm, the HLB MAC Group Lead at Mary.Palm@aphis.usda.gov.
Congress and President Obama have taken significant action to bolster the fight against huanglongbing (HLB, or citrus greening). The 2014 Federal budget the President signed in January includes $20 million dollars for huanglongbing research projects to be determined by the HLB multi-agency coordination (MAC) Group. This funding is in addition to the $1 million USDA provided to the Group when Secretary Vilsack established it in December.