By Jaci Schreckengost
All research at the Citrus Research and Education Center (CREC) at the University of Florida (UF) currently deals with huanglongbing (HLB) to help protect the citrus industry.
“Even if we’re interested in looking into other things, this needs to be solved in order to be able to have an industry to work with in the future,” says Christopher Vincent, tree physiologist at the CREC.
Vincent says one way researchers are looking into preventing HLB is by using kaolin clay to repel the Asian citrus psyllid, the vector of HLB disease. The clay is typically a white color. However, Vincent says another research study found that adding a dye to the clay helped prevent the psyllids. The kaolin clay is typically used to prevent sunburn or excess heat in the leaves of plants.
Another research area Vincent discusses is one in which a hormone is applied to plants as a defense mechanism. The hormone type used in this study is called brassinosteroid, he says. This research was started in Cuba, and brassinosteroids are now being tested to see if they can work in Florida.
Vincent also mentions an issue with HLB in which a plant will cease moving carbohydrates from the leaves to other parts of the plant. This causes a buildup of starch in the leaves, which turns the leaves a light color. He explains researchers know that this happens, but due to a lack of information, they do not yet know how or why it happens.
To create lasting solutions for HLB, Vincent says it is important to understand the issues that occur internally in the plants.
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