Using CRISPR for HLB Resistance

Ernie NeffCitrus Expo, Research


Use of CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) technology has already produced trees that are highly resistant to citrus canker. In a Citrus Expo virtual presentation, microbiology and cell scientist Nian Wang reported on work that is being done with CRISPR to develop tree resistance to HLB. Wang is a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) professor at the Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred.

“The genetic improvement of citrus by using conventional breeding is a lengthy, costly and challenging process due to the complex reproductive biology of citrus,” stated a slide in Wang’s presentation. That highly complex biology includes “sexual incompatibility, a highly heterozygous nature, nucellar seedlings, male or female sterility and a long juvenile phase,” the slide added. Wang said genetic improvement through conventional breeding can take from 10 to 20 years. “Biotechnology approaches such as CRISPR-mediated genome editing have the potential to accelerate the citrus improvement process,” the slide concluded.

In his presentation, Wang discussed some of the technicalities involved in using CRISPR to produce disease-resistant trees, as well as the regulatory steps involved in clearing the way for the technology.

Scientists sometimes refer to CRISPR as “genetic scisssors.” One of Wang’s Citrus Expo presentation slides declared, “The CRISPR scissors are ready for citrus!”

See Wang’s full Citrus Expo presentation here.

UF/IFAS recently announced that Wang has been honored by the American Phytopathological Society for his research in plant pathology. UF/IFAS referred to Wang as “a leader” in adapting CRISPR technology for disease control. Learn more about Wang being named the winner of the society’s Ruth Allen Award.

Share this Post

About the Author

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large