Florida entities got $5.4 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for 36 research projects aimed at preventing the introduction or spread of invasive agricultural pests and diseases.
That represents 11 percent of $48.1 million in allocated this year under the 2014 farm bill, the USDA said in a press statement.
“Pests and diseases are significant threats to Florida agriculture,” said Adam Putnam, Florida’s commissioner of agriculture, in a Friday statement on the USDA funding. “By working to prevent the entry and spread of these threats, we can help ensure Florida’s famed agriculture industry can continue for generations.”
The 36 projects involving state and federal entities and academic organizations in Florida include training dogs to detect unique scents given off by plants infected with citrus greening and canker; honeybee pest and disease surveys; mitigation efforts against giant African land snails in South Florida; and programs to reduce laurel wilt, a fungal disease affecting avocado production in Miami-Dade County.
The tree snails, which grow to the size of a rat, arose in 2011 in South Florida. They feed on more than 500 plants and also stucco siding on homes and carry a parasite that can cause illness in humans.
“Plant pests and diseases cost the industry and our economy millions of dollars every year,” said Lisa Lochridge, a spokeswoman for the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association, a growers’ group in Maitland. “This funding is vital in helping Florida in its critical battle against citrus greening and a whole host of other plant pests and diseases.”
Source: The Ledger (Lakeland, Fla.)