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National Invasive Species Awareness Week is organized to bring attention to the impacts, prevention and management of invasive species – and all those who are working toward healthy, biodiverse ecosystems. Florida knows all too well about the impact of invasive species and how they can damage our fragile environment. Below are just a handful of the current invasive species plaguing Florida’s natural area and threatening our agriculture.

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Giant African Land Snails

In 2011, FDACS began an eradication program to address a large infestation of giant African land snails in Miami-Dade county. The giant African land snail is one of the most damaging snails in the world because they consume at least 500 different types of plants, can cause structural damage to buildings due to consumption of plaster and stucco, and can carry a parasitic nematode that can cause a form of meningitis in humans. The snail is one of the largest land snails in the world, growing up to eight inches in length and more than four inches in diameter. With a life expectancy of close to nine years and the ability to reproduce rapidly eradication s essential to protecting Florida.

As of February 2017, over 166,000 GALS have been destroyed and the program is on track to achieve eradication in the next four years.

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Asian Citrus Psyllid

The Asian citrus psyllid was found for the first time in the U.S. in 1998 in Delray Beach, FL., but no associated Huanglongbing (HLB) infection was found at that time. Agriculture officials imposed quarantines and took other actions to control the spread of the psyllid. However, with the abundance of citrus and other hosts present in the state, psyllid populations grew and became established. As the vector for HLB, it is critical to try to manage the Asian citrus psyllid populations in Florida. The division rears and releases hundreds of thousands of Tamarixia radiata, a beneficial parasitic biological ____ insect that attacks Asian citrus psyllids.

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Fruit Flies

Exotic fruit flies are considered some of the most serious of the world’s agricultural pests due to their potential economic harm and threat to our food supply. They attack hundreds of different fruits, vegetables, and nuts, including oranges, grapefruit, lemons, apples, guava, mango, tomatoes, and peppers. Exotic fruit flies include: Mediterranean, Oriental, melon, Mexican, guava and peach to name a few.

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Michael C. Thomas, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Bugwood.org

Redbay Ambrosia Beetle

The redbay ambrosia beetle spreads a fungus causing laurel wilt disease as it bores into healthy trees in the laurel family. The beetle may spread the disease when it migrates from infested trees to healthy ones. The beetle and disease are also spread when infested plants and wood are moved from one location to another. Susceptible trees include the avocado, red bay, swamp bay, pondspice and silk bay trees – all native to Florida.
A way to identify a tree affected by laurel wilt is to look for toothpick like tubes around the truck of the tree or for piles of fine sawdust, dropping foliage with a reddish or purplish discoloration, or even black discoloration on sapwood surface. Check out SavetheGuac.com to learn more about laurel wilt and the redbay ambrosia beetle.

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Africanized Honey Bees

Honey bees brought to the U.S. in the 1600’s by European settlers soon became one of the most economically beneficial insects. Their gentle nature made them easy to manage. In 1956, researchers in Brazil imported honey bees from Africa in an attempt to create a honey bee that would be better suited to tropical conditions. The thought was that when the African honey bees (AHB) were bred with European honey bees, the African honey bees would lose their most defensive nature. However, that was not the case. In 1957, 26 African queen bees escaped from a breeding program in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Soon the hybrid Africanized honey bees became established and expanded their range through South and Central America. The first report of Africanized honey bees in the United States was made in Hidalgo, Texas in 1990. Since then, they have been found throughout the southeast. If you have a wild bee hive in your yard, it is imperative that you take precautions and never try removal without a certified beekeeper.

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Johnny N. Dell, Bugwood.org

Love Bugs

Although invasive, love bugs are generally harmless, except to your car’s paint. Love bugs congregate in swarms and are a big nuisance for motorists. After love bugs die, the fatty tissue left behind can stain clothing and cause holes to form in the paint on a car if not removed quickly.

 

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Leah,Bauer, USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station, Bugwood.com

Emerald Ash Borer

Emerald ash borers are an invasive species discovered in 2002 near Detroit, Michigan, and have since spread. The spread is largely caused by the transportation of firewood within and between states. As the name states, the insects have a beautiful metallic emerald green coloring, but looks can be deceiving. This wood-hungry insect has been known to eat all varieties of ash trees in North America.

The insects feed on ash trees where they then lay their eggs inside the bark. During the summer months, the eggs will hatch and the larvae will eat the tree from the inside out, starving it from water and proper nutrients. When the borers emerge from the tree they leave behind a D-shaped hole, a tell-tale sign of emerald ash borers. Another indicator is an abundance of woodpeckers who are fond of the EAB in the larval stage. The EAB is not currently in Florida, to prevent the invasion of emerald ash borers don’t move firewood.

So what can you do?

What can you do to protect Florida’s natural environment from invasive species? Don’t Pack a Pest if you are traveling please declare all agricultural items. Pests travel in all shapes and sizes, by declaring your agricultural commodities you are protecting Florida’s agriculture. Don’t move firewood. Always buy local firewood and buy it where you burn it. Lastly, be aware! If you spot something suspicious such as a giant African land snail, call our helpline at 1-888-397-1517 or email us at DPIHelpline@FreshFromFlorida.com.

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Tamarixia radiata Photograph by: Jeffery Lotz

By now you’ve probably heard about the horrible citrus greening disease or Huanglongbing that has greatly affected Florida’s citrus industry. You might also know that the Asian citrus psyllid is the transmitter of Huanglongbing.

 YOU DON’T!?

Okay, well let me backtrack. Citrus greening was first detected in Miami-Dade County in 2005, causing a statewide quarantine. In the years following, citrus greening led to a steady decline in citrus tree health leading to under ripened fruit and lower production of viable citrus. There is currently no known cure for Huanglongbing. However, there are ways to slow the spread.

So what can we do?

In cooperation with UF-IFAS, a parasitoid of the psyllid, Tamarixia radiata, was introduced into the Division of Plant Industry’s quarantine laboratory in 1998 prior to the discovery of Huanglongbing in Florida. After successful rearing, releases started only one year later in 1999. The division rears and releases T. radiata in areas with high numbers of psyllids. Additionally T. radiata is safe for all organisms, with the exception of the psyllid.

Today, the Division of Plant Industry has two rearing locations, one in Gainesville, FL and one in Dundee, FL. In 2015, 3,639,909 wasps were reared, of which roughly 70 percent will be released and the remaining will be used for additional research.

Use of T. radiata is a beneficial complement to pesticides, proven to be a safe option for pollinators such as the honey bee.

Currently, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Plant Industry is accepting applications for the T. radiata dooryard release program. By participating in this program you are helping the health of your citrus trees as well as those of your neighbors and local growers. If you or someone you know is interested in participating in a residential release of T. radiata, please visit our site and fill out the appropriate documentation.

The Division of Plant Industry is here to help keep Florida’s citrus safe!

DPI Diary

November 13, 2015

Commissioner: Florida at tipping point in war against greening

Florida is at a tipping point in the war against greening, the disease that threatens the continued existence of Florida’s citrus industry. That’s what Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam told the Florida Senate Agriculture Committee at its Thursday meeting in Sebring. The industry is asking the state to invest $20 million for greening research in the 2016-17 fiscal year. Read the full story in the Lakeland Ledger here.

What’s that?

CaneHarvesterFacebook and Twitter friend Gene McAvoy posted a photo of this thing. Some sort of alien automaton? Nope. It’s actually one of U.S. Sugar’s cane harvesters. The sugar harvest got underway this week, so this machine is getting a workout. See the giant in action.

Factoids and tidbits gleaned from social media this week:

  • Our friends and neighbors at the Florida Museum of Natural History are doing a nice thing for K-12 students who have received an A for science. They can celebrate with free admission to the Butterfly Rainforest and “First Colony: Our Spanish Origins” exhibits. Just show your report card at the desk and enjoy.
  • Coinciding with Veterans Day, USA Today named the University of Florida one of the top 10 colleges for veterans. In fact, UF was rated number 5 on the list.
  • Florida growers are eying olives as a potential new crop. One reason locavores might be attracted to domestic product: a series of international scandals involving product misrepresentation of the product.
  • Thursday was Redhead Day and that fact was called to our attention by none other than Commissioner Putnam in a Facebook posting. He obviously took a personal interest. Hope you had a great day, Sir.

Don’t Pack a Pest

Linus the Dector DogThanksgiving is approaching and many of us have plans to travel. If that travel is international in nature, be sure to declare any agricultural items in your luggage. Don’t wait for an ag detector dog to discover it. You can check to see if items you plan to carry are legal by visiting http://www.dontpackapest.com on your computer or device. It’s easy

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DPI Diary

October 9, 2015

Puzzling over Poetry Day

FountainPenThursday was National Poetry Day and we found an entomological connection in what we thought might be the shortest poem in the English languace: “Adam had ’em.” It’s attributed to several authors and if you really care you can read about them here. But now we learn of an even shorter poem, said to be authored by champion heavyweight Muhammad Ali: “Me? Whee!”

Well, gee. Now back to work.

It’s Forest Awareness Month

Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam is inviting everyone to get out in the fine fall weather and  explore a Florida state forest during October. There are 37 of them, each a wonderful resource. Details here.

Why Florida’s citrus industry will survive

orangesCitrus greening and other maladies have cast a shadow over Florida’s signature crop. But this article by Frank Giles in Florida Grower cites ten reasons the industry will survive. Well worth reading.

Skimmers at the gas pumps still a danger

The department continues to urge motorists to be wary of using credit cards at gas pumps. Commissioner Putnam warns criminals are still placing “skimmers,” devices that capture consumers’ credit and debit card information, on card readers at the pump. You can help – by working at or with a gas station or convenience store, you can join in the effort to protect Florida’s consumers and visitors. Learn how here.

FDACS Recovers $250,000 for Floridians in September

Division of Plant Industry

Division of Plant Industry

As the state’s clearinghouse for consumer complaints, FDACS works diligently to educate the public, investigate complaints and provide mediation on behalf of consumers. In September, the department:

  • Recovered $250,015 on behalf of Florida consumers;
  • Received 3,888 complaints;
  • Initiated 273 investigations;
  • Arrested 24 individuals;
  • Provided assistance to 25,334 consumers through the 1-800-HELP-FLA hotline, online chats and emails; and
  • Added 15,970 telephone numbers to Florida’s Do Not Call List. Currently, there are more than 870,000 numbers on the list.

And remember. . .

DPI Diary has some recurring themes, in line with the Division of Plant Industry’s mission of protecting Florida agriculture against invasive pests. Please remember, “Save the Guac” by not moving firewood; invasive plants and insects can be transferred when untreated firewood is moved. When you travel internationally, declare agricultural products in your luggage and Don’t Pack a Pest. And, particularly if you are in South Florida, watch for giant African land snails . . . and report suspects to our Helpline, 888-397-1517.

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Vilsack Announces $30 Million to Fight Citrus Disease

USDA Office of Communications sent this bulletin at 02/09/2015 11:45 AM EST

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Release No. 0032.15
Contact:
Brian K. Mabry 202-720-4623
Vilsack Announces $30 Million to Fight Citrus Disease
USDA Targets Citrus Greening with Promising Tools and Long Term Solutions
WASHINGTON, Feb. 9, 2015 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced $30 million in funding today for 22 projects to help citrus producers combat Huanglongbing (HLB), also known as citrus greening, a devastating citrus disease that threatens U.S. citrus production. The money will fund promising projects that could offer near-term solutions as well as research funding that may develop long-terms solutions. The promising near-term tools and solutions are funded through the HLB Multiagency Coordination Group while the research projects are funded through the Specialty Crop Research Initiative Citrus Disease Research and Education (CDRE) program, which is made available through the Agricultural Act of 2014 (Farm Bill).”Our HLB Multi-Agency Coordination Group has worked closely with the citrus industry to select and fund projects that we think will make a real difference for growers against HLB,” said Vilsack. “Funding these projects through cooperative agreements puts us one step closer to putting real tools to fight this disease into the hands of citrus growers.” Vilsack continued, “Through the CDRE research we are announcing today, we are also investing in long-term solutions to diseases that threaten the long-term survival of the citrus industry.”USDA’s HLB Multi-Agency Coordination Group funded fifteen projects that support thermotherapy, best management practices, early detection, and pest control efforts for a total of more than $7 million. All of them are designed to provide near-term tools and solutions to help the citrus industry fight HLB. The projects include:

Two projects to provide improved delivery of thermotherapy to HLB infected trees, a promising treatment that has shown to help infected trees regain productivity after treatment. One of these projects will test thermotherapy on a grove-wide scale.

Six projects to provide citrus producers with best management practices in Florida citrus groves.

One project will focus on lowering the pH of the irrigation water and soil to strengthen the root systems of citrus trees to help them better tolerate HLB infection.

Three projects will support different combinations of integrated management approaches for sustaining production in trees in different stages of infection.

Two projects will test strategies for preventing tree death due to HLB infection. One of those will field test rootstocks that have shown ability to tolerate HLB infection. The other will use technologies to rapidly propagate the tolerant material for field use by the industry.

Three projects to increase early detection of HLB.

One project will train dogs to detect HLB infected trees. Detector dogs have proven to be highly adept at detecting citrus canker and early results suggest they will be an effective early detection tool for HLB.

One project will develop a root sampling and testing strategy.

One project will compare several promising early detection tests.

Four projects to provide tools to kill the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP), the vector of HLB.

One will produce and release the insect Diaphorencyrtus aligarhensis as a second biological control agent in California.

One project will use a biocontrol fungus to kill ACP adults.

One project will use a trap to attract and kill ACP adults.

One project will increase the use of field cages for the production of the insect Tamarixia radiata in residential areas, especially those that are adjacent to commercial groves in Texas. Tamarixia has already proven to be an effective biological control agent for ACP. Using field cages will enable the wider use of this effective ACP control.

In addition to these projects, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture funded more than $23 million dollars for research and education project to find lasting solutions to citrus greening disease. Examples of funded projects include developing HLB-resistant citrus cultivars, the development of field detection system for HLB, using heat as a treatment for prolonging productivity in infected citrus trees, creating a new antimicrobial treatment, among others. A fact sheet with a complete list of awardees and project descriptions (PDF, 316KB) is available on the USDA website. Fiscal year 2014 grants have been awarded to:

  • University of California, Davis, Calif., $4,579,067
  • University of California, Riverside, Calif., $1,683,429
  • University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla., $4,613,838
  • University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla., $3,495,832
  • University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla., $3,338,248
  • University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla., $2,096,540
  • Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kan., $3,734,480

CDRE is a supplement to the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI). The focus of this year’s funding was specifically on citrus greening disease. Because there are wide differences in the occurrence and progression of HLB among the states, there were regional as well as national priorities for CDRE. These priorities, recommended by the Citrus Disease Subcommittee, fall within four categories: 1) priorities that deal with the pathogen; 2) those that deal with the insect vector; 3) those that deal with citrus orchard production systems; and 4) those that deal with non-agricultural citrus tree owners.

The Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past six years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill.

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USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users).

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Division of Plant Industry

Division of Plant Industry

This news release was issued January 12, 2015

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam called for increased funding to fight citrus greening, which is threatening to decimate Florida’s famed citrus crop. The U.S. Department of Agriculture revised its estimate today for the 2014-15 harvest season to 103 million boxes of oranges, a decline from the forecast released in 2014.

“Now is the time to put all the resources we can toward fighting citrus greening,” said Commissioner Putnam. “We must do what we can to save Florida’s signature crop, an industry that generates $9 billion in annual economic impact and supports 76,000 jobs for Floridians.”

The USDA announcement at noon today estimates 103 million boxes of oranges will be harvested this season, down from the forecast of 108 million boxes announced in 2014 and also a decline from the 104 million boxes produced in 2014, the lowest on record. This represents a total decline of 60 percent since the peak of citrus production at 254 million boxes in 1997-98.

“State and federal governments, along with Florida’s citrus growers, have dedicated more than $230 million to support research over the past decade, and there are some promising leads,” Commissioner Putnam said. “I’ve requested an additional $18 million from the state this year to continue in-depth research, grow clean citrus stock, and replant where diseased trees have been removed.”

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New facility expands varieties of citrus to improve health of Florida’s citrus industry

On Tuesday, June 16, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam opened a new state-of-the art facility to improve the health of Florida’s endangered citrus industry.

The Florida Citrus Repository at LaCrosse will expand the Citrus Germplasm Introduction Program, which provides a way to safely introduce healthy new citrus varieties into the state. The new varieties will increase the strength of Florida’s endangered $9 billion citrus industry and allow Florida citrus to better compete in domestic and international markets.

“More than half of Florida’s groves are infected with citrus greening, and citrus production is at a 30-year low,” said Commissioner Putnam. “This new state-of-the-art facility will help growers replant lost trees and support a comeback of Florida’s signature crop.”

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Rep. Ted Yoho, left, discusses the new facility with Dr. Peggy Sieburth, biological administrator 3, as Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam looks on.

The opening of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ 20,000 square-foot facility will significantly increase production capacity to more than 20 new varieties each year. New varieties will match growers’ and consumers’ preferences of disease-tolerant, easy-to-peel and seedless citrus. All new varieties will go through an approval process that includes testing for pests and diseases.

The state’s history of introducing citrus helps prevent the spread of pests and diseases from other states and other countries. The new plants are raised under quarantine until they are safe to release into the environment. With the spread of citrus canker and citrus greening statewide, finding new varieties to release is imperative to maintaining the health of Florida’s $9 billion citrus industry, which directly supports 75,000 jobs.

The LaCrosse facility is opening four months after the expansion of the state’s Dundee Biological Control Laboratory, which is integral to Florida’s fight against citrus greening. The laboratory rears a beneficial insect, Tamarixia radiata, which attacks the Asian citrus psyllid—the vector of citrus greening—for release throughout Florida’s citrus production areas.

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