University of Florida citrus researchers continue to provide innovative leadership in the fight against the devastating disease Huanglongbing, also known as citrus greening disease.

University Of Florida Citrus Faculty Secure Federal Funding In Ongoing Fight Against Citrus Greening

Credit: UF/IFAS Photography

LAKE ALFRED, FL.- University of Florida citrus researchers continue to provide innovative leadership in the fight against the devastating disease Huanglongbing, also known as citrus greening disease.

The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Emergency Citrus Disease Research and Extension Program recently awarded over $2.2 million in three grants to UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences faculty to advance the known science to fight the disease. 

In addition, UF/IFAS researchers are serving in leadership roles in two other multi-million-dollar grants awarded to colleague institutions from across the nation.

Collectively, these projects provide an aggressive strategy to finding viable, realistic solutions in the fight against citrus greening and represent over $3.5 in federal funding for UF/IFAS research. More importantly, UF/IFAS researchers are participating in each of the five grants awarded in this funding cycle.

Targeting the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) gut to block Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus transmission

UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center (CREC) faculty Kirsten Pelz-Stelinski and Bryony Bonning from Gainesville will direct a two-year, $1,020,810 grant, which aims to provide a pathogen transmission-blocking strategy toward mitigation of citrus greening-related losses.

The goal of the project is to identify gut-binding peptides (GBP) that compete with the bacterium that causes citrus greening (CLas) for attachment to the ACP gut. Ultimately, that process could disrupt the transmission of CLas by the psyllid. In essence, this strategy would break the cycle of pathogen transmission at the source by neutralizing the psyllid.

Utilizing HLB-tolerant citrus germplasm and understanding its role in mitigating Huanglongbong

UF/IFAS CREC faculty Manjul Dutt, Nabil Killiny and Lauren Diepenbrock and Southwest Florida Research and Education Center researcher Ozgur Batuman will focus on integrating the natural HLB resistance present in Australian limes into conventional citrus to produce HLB-resistant Australian lime hybrid rootstocks and interstocks and eventually produce HLB-resistant scions against HLB. 

The two-year, $500,000 grant will involve planting on stakeholder plots and greenhouse environments. 

Regional management strategies for Asian citrus psyllid and HLB prevention in commercial groves and residential plantings

UF/IFAS CREC faculty Lauren Diepenbrock, Megan Dewdney, Ariel Singerman, Davie Kadyampakeni and Christopher Vincent will support the needs of both commercial and residential citrus growers by comparing new tools that are intended to support young tree establishment that are currently available and developing  management recommendations for each tool for both audiences. 

The project will study Individual Protective Covers, metallized reflective “mulch” (polyurethane ground cover) and red-dyed kaolin, which are thought to be visual and/or physical deterrents to the Asian citrus psyllid, the vector for the bacterium that causes citrus greening.

The project will compare psyllid and other insect/mite infestation, pathogen incidence, tree growth and development above and below ground, irrigation and fertilizer needs and yield to provide a holistic comparison of these tools to growers. The team will also provide modified versions of these field tools for use in residential use in collaboration with the UF/IFAS Extension Florida Master Gardener Volunteer network. The two-year program is funded at $750,000.

Advanced testing and commercialization of novel defensin peptides and therapies for HLB control

Ute Albrecht from the UF/IFAS Southwest Florida Research and Education Center will be joined by CREC faculty Ariel Singerman and Choaa El-Mohtar working on a Coordinated Agricultural Project (CAP) with Texas A & M University to test promising HLB therapies to kill the bacterium CLas and control HLB. 

Methods to be tested include using the hairy root system to screen potent anti-CLas peptide and small molecules. Researchers plan to use multiple locations and multi-year field evaluations of

the therapies and delivery systems. Economic feasibility studies will be conducted to determine the extent of benefits to the citrus growers.

The four-year, $7,000,000 project will direct $868,792 to UF/IFAS for its contributions to the study.

Use performance of 300 hybrids in established trials to map Huanglongbing tolerance/resistance genes and release superior new rootstocks

Ute Albrecht from SWFREC and Zhanao Deng from the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center will work with the USDA and the University of California-Riverside on a two-year, $1,499,998 project that will advance existing work on 300 rootstock hybrids to identify the best performing HLB-tolerant rootstocks for commercial release with expanded collection of performance information. Researchers hope to identify and select a minimum of three new rootstock cultivars for release to growers before the end of 2023.

UF/IFAS will receive $445,808 for its role in this project.

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