UF researchers find solution not yet legal to treat citrus greening disease

Researchers have found a solution to citrus tree disease thought to have no cure. But farmers can’t use it for fruit people eat quite yet. We spoke to a grower who has to deal with fighting serious infection of his crops.

Citrus greening disease is a threat to the multi-billion-dollar industry in the state. The disease is not harmful to humans; however, it can affect the quality of citrus people buy.

“From about 2009 to now, it has been a big problem,” said Jim Snively, vice president of grove operations at Southern Gardens Citrus. “Every grower in the State of Florida, if you’re growing citrus, you have greening in your grove.”

Snively is constantly looking for traces of this citrus plant disease, which can be identified by yellowing leaves.

“It does cause fruit loss, premature fruit drop,” Snively said. “And we figure we probably lose anywhere from 25 to 30 percent of our crop before we get it harvested.”

Snively’s team continues to focus on nutrition and pest management to keep groves blossoming.

Finding a solution 

UF researchers are looking at bactericides as a solution to fight the disease.

“Those aren’t currently legal for use in Florida at this time,” said Dr. Michael Rogers, center director and professor at UF/IFAS Citrus Research & Education Center.

Instead of spraying trees, researchers learned trunk injections work better; however, they’re illegal.

“To get permission from EPA, you have to go through a series of tests to demonstrate safety of the product,” Rogers said. “And that’s not been done for trunk injections at this point in time.”

In the meantime, researchers are informing growers, so they can still mitigate potential issues with trees.

“What we’re doing with growers right now is helping them find ways to alleviate the stress on the trees,” Rogers said.

This leaves researcher optimistic for the future of Florida citrus.

Reporter:Stephanie Byrne
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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