Citrus Greening Breakthrough

Citrus Greening Breakthrough

Maura Bennett
Maura Bennett

Until recently early detection and removal of citrus trees infected with greening disease was the only way to prevent its spreading.

This bacterial disease is transmitted to healthy trees by the Asian citrus psyllid after it feeds on infected plant tissue.

USDA Ag Research Service scientist, Tim Gottwald says citrus greening has proven more difficult than other similar diseases such as Plum pox because it takes a long time to detect it.

Gottwald: “It has an insect vector like Plum Pox but it can’t be cultured. It’s very difficult to work with. There’s probably about a thousand researchers who are working on this world wide. It’s been known for about a hundred years and no one has come up with a cure for it yet with the exception of removing trees.”

Gottwald said trained dogs can actually smell the bacteria within a few weeks after infection.

But now researchers at Washington State University and the University of Florida may have discovered a way to better protect against citrus greening.

WSU scientists have been able to grow the bacteria that causes citrus greening. That is a major step in the creation of resistant plants or treatments for the disease.

Citrus greening devastated Florida citrus after it was detected in 2005. In 2012 it was found in a California backyard. Since then infected trees have been found mainly in Orange County. So far confirmed detections have all been in backyard trees, not commercial groves. Though dogs have alerted to possible diseased trees at UC Riverside and commercial groves in Kern County.

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