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US: University of Florida citrus greening research gets $3.5 million grant

freshplaza 2018-11-07 18:22:00

Florida’s grapefruit growers, devastated by the citrus greening disease, might get some hope from four half-acre, white screenhouses in a research field.

Inside the screens, 512 young “Ray Ruby” grapefruit trees have been growing since September 2013 as part of a University of Florida research project trying to determine if the mesh can keep out the insects that spread the disease.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has backed the Citrus Under Protective Screen, or CUPS, project, giving UF a $3.5 million grant to study the effectiveness of the 14-foot-high screenhouses at stopping the Asian citrus psyllid, an invasive insect that carries the bacteria that causes the huanglongbing disease, commonly known as citrus greening.

According to the Herald Tribune, the disease has reduced Florida’s citrus production, including grapefruit and oranges, from 292 million boxes during the 2003 through 2004 season to fewer than 78 million boxes at the end of the 2016-2017 season, according to USDA statistics.