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Citrus and Gene Editing


By Phillip Rucks, Phillip Rucks Citrus Nursery

Creating a citrus-greening resistant plant has been at the forefront of agricultural research since the disease was first diagnosed in 2005.

Greening has ravaged the Florida citrus crop, which has been impacted by the disease for more

than a decade. This year’s USDA forecast of 86.9 million boxes is higher than last year’s greening and hurricane-influenced crop, but still far below Florida’s peak output of 244 million boxes during

the 1997-98 season.

Building a greening-resistant plant would certainly help rebuild Florida’s citrus industry, but the going is slow. The research on CRISPR is time-consuming. A team of six researchers and an array of sophisticated tools are required.

The process doesn’t just include “switching” genes off but also takes time to see if the switch does that was intended.

“We now have the technology to modify the gene to make the plant resistant to canker disease,” says Wang. “The challenge is that we don’t have the exact gene. We do not want to modify the wrong gene, so the progress is slow.” Hopefully, a breakthrough with citrus greening is close at hand.