As citrus greening continues to devastate Florida’s citrus crop, researchers think they’ve discovered a way to gain new insights into the disease which could help the industry finally defeat it.
Citrus greening disease has destroyed millions of acres of citrus plants around the world. It is spread by a disease-infected insect, the Asian citrus psyllid, and has put the future of citrus at risk.
So far, researchers have been unable to isolate the bacteria that causes greening; to study the disease researchers have been forced to grow trees, then study their roots. But now, Texas A&M AgriLife Research is reporting promise in rapidly culturing and reproducing the pathogens and microbes that cause the disease in the laboratory.
The breakthrough, announced by US Sugar subsidiary Southern Gardens Citrus last month could be a game-changer, industry officials said. While it doesn’t cure the disease in and of itself, the research could allow the industry to “more efficiently and cost effectively find a workable defense against fastidious pathogens and microbes like citrus greening,” according to a Southern Gardens Citrus media release. Florida has lost more than 60% of its production since the 2003-04 growing season.