California and Florida Collaborate on HLB Research

Len WilcoxHLB Management, Research

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California

University of California, Riverside (UCR) professor Georgios Vidalakis recently provided an update on the state of California citrus for researchers in Florida. Vidalakis is a noted professor and Extension specialist in UCR’s Microbiology and Plant Pathology Department. Among other honors, he was recently named Presidential Researcher for Sustainable Citrus Clonal Protection.

Vidalakis pointed out that California has benefited greatly from research conducted in Florida, especially in the area of huanlongbing (HLB) or citrus greening disease.

“In California, we’ve had the opportunity to be as prepared as possible to face the disease and the insect because we started our preparations years before the first psyllid was found in the state,” he said. “We really benefited a lot from the Florida experience. And our friends in Florida made sure that we didn’t repeat the mistakes that they made in the late 1990s when they first found the psyllids.”

The result of this help and the tremendous amount of work being done in California, is that “California is making history today. We have had the insect for 11 years now — the first find was in 2008 — and we do not have an epidemic in our orchards,” says Vidalakis. Even though the psyllid has been found in the state, all of the positive findings have been in residential backyards.

The professor observed that HLB is a community disease and that the whole citrus industry has to work together to fight it. If the disease arises in one orchard, it will quickly spread throughout the region. This motivates the industry to work together, on a local level as well as nationally between citrus-growing regions. This cooperation has led to the possibility of new hybrids that can resist HLB infection.

“A lot of hybridization happened … So our breeders in Florida and in California are speaking to (each other). And I think the outcomes will be very positive. I think we’re going to have soon a hybrid system that can tolerate the disease a little bit better than what we have right now.”

This interview with Vidalakis is part of the current episode of the All In For Citrus podcast, a joint project of UF/IFAS and AgNet Media. Listen to the full podcast here.

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Len Wilcox

Correspondent at Large for Citrus Industry Magazine and AgNet West