Act Now but Keep an Eye on the Future

A February 2024 report from the USDA Agricultural Research Service indicates that scientists may be one step closer to not only developing a hybrid citrus tree that can tolerate greening but also a hybrid citrus tree that can produce a fruit with suitable juice.

The research team identified 26 total flavor compounds and seven chemicals that are essential to the desired flavor profile of orange juice. In addition, they were able to pinpoint the chemicals, called esters, master gene and created a DNA marker for it. This marker can be used to quickly check for the genetic presence of a desirable trait and screen seedlings for desired profiles at an early stage.

This could be a significant finding — being able to not only grow greening-tolerant trees, but also being able to identify trees that are able to produce quality-tasting juice. However, as with all good scientific breakthroughs, years of rigorous testing are needed to back up these early hypotheses.

These approaches are an attractive way forward in this decades-long fight against HLB. And we may get there eventually. However, the Florida Citrus Industry needs working solutions while these researchers continue their thorough — though time-consuming — work.

Tree Defender IPCs have consistently proven to be a leader in helping growers produce HLB-free trees to maturity and beyond. But it’s not just the HLB-free part. Trees that grow in our patented Tree Defender mesh technology are healthier, growing in a biome that promotes larger leaves, higher brix levels, and faster time to production than trees that are not protected by Tree Defender IPCs. This is researched and proven science that works now. No waiting.

At Tree Defender, we stand with the Florida citrus industry, and we are proud to be contributing to the ongoing research in the battle against greening. It’s exciting to see the breakthroughs and hear of the possibilities of things to come.

But most growers — including us —cannot sit idly by and wait for the research to catch up. We must act now and use the tools we know that have already been proven.

This column is sponsored by Tree Defender, and the opinions expressed herein may not reflect those of CFAN or of its advertisers.
Bio: Tommy Thayer is the co-owner of Tree Defender and owner of Southern Citrus Nurseries, which has been in business since the 1970s. Both companies are based in Dundee, Florida. As a native Floridian, he is a fifth-generation citrus grower who graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Science degree in Food Resource Economics. For more information, visit

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