University of Florida researchers study ways to combat citrus greening

Published: March 13, 2020 8:11 PM EDT
Updated: March 13, 2020 8:28 PM EDT

Insects and pests are destroying citrus trees of farmers across Florida, but now they’re turning to a new technology to protect their trees.

Doctor Ozgur Batuman is a University of Florida citrus pathologist. He’s studying viruses found in psyllids, which are tiny insects they spread citrus greening disease.

“Citrus is an over $9 billion industry, and it’s not only citrus that we are juicing and drinking, but the number of employees earning a living from citrus,” Dr. Batuman said.

As Jim Snively with Southern Growers Citrus knows first-hand, citrus greening is hurting his bottom line, “It’s increased our cost, it’s doubled our cost of production to grow the crop, it has caused a loss of production.”

Snively hopes the researchers studying the viruses will determine whether they can be used to weaken or kill the insects.

“I think it’s fair to say that science is advancing so quick,” Dr. Batuman said. “I am super excited about these viruses we are finding in this insect.”

Snively added that he believes in research and “that you have to do research to find answers.” Going under the microscope to combat a big problem.

This study is still in a trial period, so there’s no real timetable as to if or when this treatment might become available to citrus growers.