Organic Solutions for Citrus Greening
Citrus greening disease, or Huanglongbing, threatens the citrus industry on a massive scale. It has devastated millions of acres of citrus crops throughout the United States and abroad, ravaging countries in Asia, Africa, and South America. The highly destructive disease can spread quickly, and once a tree is infected, it cannot be cured.
Currently, the most common method for controlling citrus greening is by spraying large amounts of synthetic pesticides such as neonicotinoids. These toxic sprays have had only limited success, and have been responsible for large-scale bee die-offs. Other non-organic research has focused on creating GMO varieties of citrus trees resistant to citrus greening.
Additionally, conventional strategies have not yet proven effective and have contributed to policy decisions that are not compatible with organic management. For example, applications of synthetic pesticides have been mandated as an eradication method in California citrus groves, including certified organic groves, in regions where the psyllid has been detected, but no organic alternatives have been offered as substitutes for these mandatory spray regimes.
Organic citrus growers need ways to control this devastating disease without the use of dangerous chemicals or genetic engineering. However, there is little research examining organically compliant methods for controlling citrus greening. To address this issue, The Organic Center has launched a multi-year research project in collaboration with Ben McLean of Uncle Matt’s Organic and University of Florida entomologist Michael Rogers to find holistic organic solutions to controlling citrus greening organically. This project will determine the efficacy of labeled organic pesticides for controlling the Asian citrus psyllid, develop protocols for organic growers struggling with citrus greening, and examine naturally occurring organic trees resistant to citrus greening that can be bred to create non-GMO citrus greening-resistant varieties of citrus.
The information from this study will be critical for providing growers around the country with the information they need to protect their citrus groves from collapse due to citrus greening. It will also be useful for policymakers in incorporating organic alternatives to Asian citrus psyllid control into area-wide treatment protocols.
The Organic Center needs your help! We received a generous grant from the UNFI Foundation to start the research, but we need further contributions to reach our target budget.