UF researchers receive federal funding to fight citrus greening

Reporter: Stephanie Byrne Writer: Drew Hill
Published: Updated:
Credit: WINK News

University of Florida researchers have received federal funding to combat citrus greening. This disease is devastating to citrus growers. Now, WINK News is showing you the research that is already underway to fight this disease.

Just as people are dealing with the pandemic, the citrus industry is dealing with a pandemic of its own – citrus greening. Ron Mahan is the CFO and vice president of Tamiami Citrus. “As a state, the industry was producing 200 to 240 million boxes, 90-pound boxes a year of oranges, most of that going into juice, although some sold fresh as well, but today, we’re now producing at less than 50 million boxes,” said Mahan.

Thanks to more than $2 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF researchers are working to combat citrus greening. Ute Albrecht and Ozgur Batuman gave WINK News a glimpse into how the money will help them.

Ute Albrecht is an Assistant Professor of plant physiology. “By just simply spraying the tree with a new therapy, it doesn’t get into the plant.” Albrecht went on to say, “the method that I will be involved in is through trunk injection.”

Like how humans get shots at doctors’ offices, one of Albrecht’s projects involves exploring different chemical compounds to inject in citrus trunks to fight greening.

Batuman works with a team to graft greening-resistant Australian finger limes to sweet orange trees to boost resilience. Think of it like an organ transplant or a blood transfusion, but for plants.

“As if you are taking my arm and attaching to you, and you are taking some of the useful genes from me to yourself. Very straightforward and can be done instantly,” Batuman said.

Growers are putting the pieces together and keeping citrus on the table.

Researchers in Immokalee also use mesh covers to protect trees from the specific insect responsible for transmitting citrus greening bacteria.

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