Bayer HLB Project Extended

Ernie NeffHLB Management

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A large multi-year Bayer Crop Science project aimed at finding solutions for HLB will be extended by a grant from a branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The two-year grant for just over $10 million came from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). The grant is to the Citrus Research and Development Foundation (CRDF) and its funding partners the California Citrus Research Board (CRB), PepsiCo, Inc. and The Coca-Cola Company.

The project began in 2017 with funding from CRDF, PepsiCo and The Coca-Cola Company. In 2020, the CRB joined the project and provided important financial assistance to keep the project going until the NIFA grant began.

The project has three objectives. The first is to build a high-throughput system that will allow antimicrobial compounds to be tested for efficacy against HLB. This objective has been accomplished. The high-throughput system is up and operating, and approximately 500 compounds per quarter are being tested. The system is open to not just Bayer scientists, but other scientists from across the world as a service to the citrus industry.

The second objective is to develop a plant defense inducer (PDI) product that causes the tree to switch on its natural defenses to fight liberibacter, the causal agent of HLB. Research work on developing a PDI is quite far along, and it is believed that a top development candidate can be identified during the lifetime of the grant. The goal is to progress quickly toward product registration.

The third objective is to develop an antimicrobial that will kill liberibacter. While this is not quite as mature as the effort to develop a PDI, with 500 compounds per quarter being run through Bayer’s high-throughput system, it is just a matter of time before one or more are found. Five field trials in Florida are up and running to test promising candidates.

“This grant will allow work on these promising products to be completed,” CRDF Chief Operating Officer Rick Dantzler said. “It is a great example of public institutions and the private sector working together to achieve a common goal.”

Research universities also working on the project are the University of Florida, Texas A&M and the University of California, Davis.

“By working toward a common goal, this coalition has made excellent progress on each of the three distinct approaches,” said Denise Manker, research and development expert fellow at Bayer Crop Science. Manker has been overseeing the company’s work on HLB for more than three years and serves as the primary liaison between the research teams.

“Success with this project will help all citrus growers, not just those from a particular state,” said CRB President Marcy Martin.

Learn more about how the project began in 2017.

Source: Citrus Research and Development Foundation

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