“It’s (NuPsyllid) a project that started in 2012, involving a team of scientists from all over the country … And the goal is to build and release into the field the psyllid that has less capacity to acquire and transmit the Liberibacter pathogen that causes HLB. The premise is that if we can disable the psyllid and then rear it and release it much in the way you would a biological control agent, then you could over time reduce the overall wild population – dilute it out – and its ability to move the bacterium … This might be a real useful tool to complement what we’re doing with other psyllid management.”
The project consists of eight teams and about 40 scientists working in numerous states.
“We were hopeful that by the end of the fifth year, we’d have a psyllid that was in the greenhouse, on plants, ready to scale up and put in the field. But we’re not quite there yet … The work goes on. There’s additional funding that will be available after year five, and we’re optimistic that it’s going to get where it needs to go.”
Browning discusses a promising side benefit of the NuPsyllid research. “The psyllid shield is taking some of the advances that have been developed in part through this project,” he says. The shield would use RNA interference to disrupt psyllid biology and lead to psyllid death. “We’re working with a number of folks to get the logistics set up to put this into the field this coming season,” Browning says.
Everyone involved acknowledged from the start that the NuPsyllid project was a “high-risk” effort, Browning says. “We put a very ambitious program together … I don’t think the team is disappointed because there’s been a lot of really good progress coming out of this.”
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