More wasps are headed to Texas—good news for the state's citrus industry.

Bio-control efforts in Texas, California and Florida are getting a boost from USDA. United States Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently released just over $1.5 million in funding to expand efforts to fight Huanglongbing (HLB), or Citrus Greening, a serious disease that nearly devastated the citrus industry in Florida in recent years and has spread to Texas and California over the last three years.

Vilsack established the Huanglongbing Multi-agency Coordination Group (HLB MAC Group) last December and provided funding to deal with the issue. Funds released late last month represent the first intended specifically to further bio-control efforts designed to keep the disease from spreading.

"Citrus greening poses a significant threat to the citrus industry and the thousands of jobs that depend on it. It could also further drive up fruit and juice prices if we don’t act," said Vilsack. "USDA is committed to fighting and beating this destructive disease."

For the latest on southwest agriculture, please check out Southwest Farm Press Daily and receive the latest news right to your inbox.

HLB is considered the most destructive disease of citrus in the world. It is endemic in large parts of Asia and Africa, but was discovered in Florida in 2005 and only in recent years spread to Texas and eventually as far west as California. The disease is caused by a bacterium which is transmitted by insects called psyllids, specifically, the Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP). There is no cure for greening, and the lengthy latent period after infection makes eradication almost impossible.

Thanks to research in Texas and later, in cooperation with researchers in California, one of the most effective control measures has been the introduction of biological predators of the psyllids, a tiny wasp found in Pakistan, the Tamarixia radiata.

The funds released by the HLB MAC Group have enabled USDA to sign cooperative agreements with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumers Services, Texas Citrus Pest and Disease Management Corporation, and the California Citrus Research Board and California Department of Food and Agriculture to coordinate the fight against spread of the disease.