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Organic Solutions for Citrus Greening

Jun 24, 2014

 

Citrus Greening Infographic 7The Organic Center has teamed up with researchers at the University of Florida to find non-toxic, organic solutions to citrus greening disease.

Citrus greening, 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.

cut oranges and juice in glassAdditionally, 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 university researchers, citrus growers, and other non-profits to find holistic organic solutions to controlling citrus greening organically. 

Specifically, we are working with researchers at the University of Florida to conduct research that will look at:

  • Organic methods for controlling the Asian citrus psyllid, the tiny insect which spreads citrus greening disease, without the use of toxic chemicals
  • Naturally resistant germplasm to breed organic citrus varieties that are resistant to the disease, without the use of genetic engineering
  • Methods for ensuring natural predator health while preventing Asian citrus psyllid spread

grove

This information 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. We hope that our findings will be useful to organic and conventional growers alike!  It will also be useful for policymakers in incorporating organic alternatives to Asian citrus psyllid control into area-wide treatment protocols. If it is not stopped, citrus greening may remove organic citrus from our diets, destroy countless farms, and significantly disrupt regional economies. Without further research on organic methods for controlling the disease, the entire domestic organic citrus sector may be wiped out.

 

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