The cutting edge of molecular biology is the only hope for the U.S. citrus industry

Credit: Wikimedia Commons, USDA APHIS

Credit: Wikimedia Commons, USDA APHIS

In early 2014, Congress appropriated $20 million to research on the bacterial disease known as citrus greening, and through the Farm Bill, promised another $125 million over the next five years.  Citrus greening, which infects all types of citrus and is fatal, has no known cure. Its insect vector, the Asian citrus psyllid, spread quickly from Florida to all citrus-producing states over the past 8 years. To make matters worse, the USDA test used to identify infected trees has a high false negative rate, making it difficult to prevent spread through eradication of infected trees. The disease was found in 2012 in California, which is second to Florida in U.S. citrus production. Research spearheaded by California’s Citrus Research Board is focused on developing better testing methods for earlier detection of the disease, with some promising results. Read more about the disease and the research on early detection and genetic engineering in my report in American Scientist.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *