by Andrzej Czarniecki, Sustainable Plant Systems major
Orange juice may soon be a thing of the past. International researchers along with University of Florida and Florida State University researchers have received a 4 million dollar grant from the USDA in order combat Candidatus Liberibacter spp. a devastating bacterial disease also known as Citrus Greening, or huanglongbing (HLB), or yellow dragon disease, which is known all around the world, affecting many other citrus growing countries and with no cure known. It is slowly killing off large orange production fields of Florida with up to 162,000 acres, as far as 50% of production has been cut in the last 4 years due with a $7.8 billion in revenue lost since 2007.
The disease enters the tree through a sap-sucking insect known as Diaphorina citri, the Asian Citrus Psyllid which feeds on the foliage of the plant allowing the bacteria to enter into the vascular system via the phloem and causing it to clog up. This causes the tree to starve itself from supplying proper nutrients resulting in fruit that is inferior in size, green, bitter which doesn’t allow for sales in the fruit market. There have been limitations such as not being able to culture the bacteria to send the bacteria to other researchers slowing down the process of finding a cure, therefore; scientists are trying a number of alternative different paths, such as; using a bacteria similar in their study trials or by genetically modifying citrus trees with resistant genes from a spinach plant.
This blog post was an assignment for Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor.