In the latest All In For Citrus podcast, Ozgur Batuman talks about his research into biological control of the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP). Batuman is an assistant professor at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Southwest Florida Research and Education Center. ACP control is necessary for management of citrus greening disease, or huanglongbing (HLB).
Batuman’s research program is focused on better understanding the pathogens that cause diseases in citrus. His goal is to find effective, long-lasting pest management strategies to control these pathogens. Specifically, he is looking at the possibility of a virus that will affect the ACP in some way, whether killing it, immobilizing it or affecting the transmission of HLB.
“We want to identify viruses that might be used as a viral vector that could be delivered to the psyllid, to either kill them or alter the biological cycle,” explained Batuman.
His research is building upon work done by Bryce Falk’s group at UC Davis. “His group identified five viruses in the gut of ACP that were collected from different parts of the world, including Taiwan, China, Hawaii and Florida.”
Batuman’s research has already found those five psyllid viruses, and more, in Florida. “We also identified a number of viral sequences implying that there are many other viruses living inside the gut of the ACP,” he said. “Our next step would be to try to understand whether these viruses are good or bad for psyllids. If it’s good, can we change or reverse that and make them bad?” If the virus is bad, Batuman wants to determine if it can be made more widespread in Florida to reduce the number of ACPs.
For more information, listen to the complete interview with Batuman in the November All In For Citrus podcast. The podcast is a joint project of UF/IFAS and AgNet Media.