CITRUS GREENING IS A SCOURGE on the Florida citrus industry, but it highlights the value of ag tech, science, and innovation in an amazing way. So many are working on the issue, and the ingenuity of those in agriculture is on full display. Below are some of the research efforts in the works right now.
MOTHER TREE TOLERANCE
There’s a grove of trees at the UF Citrus Research and Education Center (CREC) in Lake Alfred that all hail from the “Mother Tree.” It’s a propagated tree that was created approximately 30 years ago by a horticulturist with zero foreknowledge of citrus greening. It was a cross that created mostly duds, but one — Sugar Belle — produced an amazing fruit orange. It’s also been infected with HLB for more than five years and has shown little damage from the infection. Trees propagated from the “Mother Tree” have shown even better tolerance. There’s even a mandarin — Bingo — that has been HLB-free for more than eight years. Researchers at the CREC are hoping to discover the secret to the trees’ tolerances, and put it into other citrus varieties.
TOLERANCE CREATED WITH BIOTECHNOLOGY AND SPINACH DNA
Researchers with Texas A&M have teamed up with Southern Gardens Citrus to insert spinach DNA into citrus trees. They’ve achieved citrus tree tolerance to HLB, Southern Gardens Citrus President Rick Kress assured at the last Citrus Mutual conference. They’re betting their use of biotechnology will create an HLB-resistant citrus tree in the not-too-distant future.
TRAPPING PSYLLID REPRODUCTION
There’s a tiny insect responsible behind the transmission of the citrus greening bacteria, and UF researchers have created a trap that interrupts Asian citrus psyllid reproduction by luring the male to his doom with vibrations.
GROWING CITRUS UNDER NETS
Two different groves in Central Florida are in the midst of setting up Citrus Undercover Production Systems, or CUPS. The idea hails from Japan, and it equates to growing citrus trees under an expansive outdoor screen room. The idea is to keep the Asian citrus psyllid, and HLB, out completely, and it’s backed by scientific studies.
column by MIKE MARTIN
BIO: Michael Martin of Martin Law Office in Lakeland specializes in agriculture and environmental legal representation. A native of Polk County, Mike attended college at Sewanee in Tennessee, before obtaining a doctorate in law from the University of Florida. He has tried numerous cases nationwide since that time. Mike also serves as the director of the FFA Foundation and is the author of the novel, The Crestfallen Rose. To learn more, visit martinpa.com.