PLANT CITY — The federal government is allocating more than $1.5 million to help states including Florida propogate a wasp that attacks the bug that spreads citrus greening.
Florida will receive $535,000 to increase production of the parasitic wasp with an appetite for the Asian citrus psyllid, the pest that spreads citrus greening. The disease has ruined groves in the state and other citrus producing regions.
The citrus greening bacteria, spread by the non-native tiny insect, causes trees to produce green, disfigured fruit. The trees eventually die.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the wasp is just one of the ways the federal and state governments in citrus-producing states are fighting back.
He said the federal government is committed to spending $125 million into research over the next five years to halt the disease. Wasps are only one of several methods being pursued, Vilsack said, adding, “we want to continue our research” for a break through.
Richard Skinner, who had to rip up 1,600 trees from a century-old famly grove in Plant City due to greening, said every effort is welcome but he doubts the wasps will have much of an impact. A similar approach was taken a few years ago with another citrus pest with limited success.
“Right now, we’re swimming against the tide,” he said.
Vilsack said he knows the stakes are high and the disease threatens the jobs of thousands of Floridians employed in the citrus industry.
“It’s a devastating disease and it’s a deep concern,” he said.