University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) plant pathologist Ozgur Batuman discusses efforts to get materials that fight HLB into the citrus tree’s phloem, where it might be most effective.
Batuman explains that bacteria that cause HLB “live inside the phloem of citrus. That is very difficult to reach to kill … by conventional methods, such as foliar spraying or drenching with bactericides.”
Batuman and others are developing an automated robotic arm that will have instruments to puncture the tree trunk and apply the HLB-fighting materials. “Hopefully, this automated system will be economically feasible for most growers” to use in the battle against HLB or for applying other systemic pesticides, he says.
The system might also be used to apply materials to healthy young trees in an effort to protect them against HLB, “similar to a vaccination approach,” Batuman says.
He hopes that a prototype delivery system will be developed for field trials by the end of 2019, and that a working system can be used in some cooperating growers’ groves by the end of 2020.
Scientists involved in the massive project will also study the citrus tree’s vascular system, says Batuman, who works at the Southwest Florida Research and Education Center (SWFREC) in Immokalee. Many fellow UF/IFAS scientists as well as researchers with other organizations in other states are involved in the project.
Batuman tells more about this research in the latest episode of the All In For Citrus Podcast. The podcast is a joint effort of UF/IFAS and Southeast AgNet.
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