The University of California, Riverside (UCR) recently released information regarding a promising new treatment for huanglongbing (HLB) and the Asian citrus psyllid that “effectively kills the bacterium causing the disease with a naturally occurring molecule found in wild citrus relatives.” While this news has exciting potential, UCR and California Department of Food and Agriculture scientists agree that growers should continue utilizing established best practices for control of HLB.
The new treatment is the result of research by Hailing Jin, a geneticist at UCR. Jin has conducted greenhouse trials on young citrus plants to investigate the role of citrus-derived peptides in the battle against HLB. While the long-term effectiveness of this research has not yet been confirmed or published in a scientific journal and the project is still in its early stages, Jin’s findings have resulted in a commercial licensing agreement between UCR and Invaio Sciences.
“This is a very exciting development in the ongoing search for effective treatments against huanglongbing and I applaud the innovation and years of dedicated research conducted by Dr. Jin and her team,” said Victoria Hornbaker, director of the Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Division. “While this announcement is promising to the future of our citrus industry, it will take some time — perhaps years — before the potential treatment is on the market. In the meantime, it is important for industry members to remain vigilant in implementing best practices in the fight against huanglongbing and the Asian citrus psyllid.”
The recommended voluntary best practices for growers — which are grouped based on a grower’s proximity to an HLB detection — represent the most effective tools known to the citrus industry at this time. Endorsed by the Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Committee, these best practices were developed by a task force consisting of growers from various regions across the state and scientists, including Data Analysis and Tactical Operations Center members Beth Grafton-Cardwell, Neil McRoberts, Holly Deniston-Sheets and others.
As of July 10, 2020, 1,947 citrus trees have been confirmed with HLB in the residential areas of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Now more than ever, the industry must work together in the fight to save California citrus from this deadly disease. Growers are encouraged to implement any methods that are feasible for their operation in order to limit the spread of the Asian citrus psyllid and HLB. The cost to manage the Asian citrus psyllid is far less than any potential costs or loss to the industry should HLB take hold throughout California.
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