Field-Tested Peptide Treats Citrus Greening

Tacy CalliesCitrus Greening

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Elemental Enzymes, a St. Louis biotechnology firm, has obtained a patent for a natural peptide solution to treat citrus greening disease.

The peptide solution, Vismax, is readying for commercialization and is expected to reach the market by 2022. Vismax has been developed and extensively field tested, says Brian Thompson, CEO of Elemental Enzymes.

Thompson gave a presentation on Nov. 18 during a Citrus Research and Development Foundation (CRDF) virtual seminar on peptides. He provided an overview of immune-activating peptides and their use in agriculture.

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Peptides are linked chains of amino acids that aid in managing the bacterium that causes citrus greening. According to Thompson, using natural, non-toxic peptides to trigger the plant’s immune system is a safer alternative to the widespread use of antibiotics that threaten the environment.

“I like to think of these immune-activating peptides as the plant’s early-defense warning system,” Thompson says. “The plant is always on the lookout for bacterial and fungal pathogens that might attack it. The earlier that it can detect that a pathogen or disease is coming, the better that plant can prepare itself to fight off that particular disease.”

According to Thompson, peptides are already present in the field.

“Plants make their own peptides,” Thompson says. “They use peptides for hormonal signaling to different stresses such as temperature, drought and micronutrient deficiencies. They use peptides to signal within themselves that they have these deficiencies. So, peptides are already having an effect, but you can add other peptides to augment or accelerate some of these responses in the field.”

Thompson reports that 45 replicated field trials over the past four years have demonstrated that Vismax increases yield, reduces infection levels and accelerates tree recovery across Florida. Trials conducted throughout 2018 and 2019 showed a 19 to 25 percent increase of fresh fruit value on treated trees and an overall 33 percent increase in yield, he says.

Vismax has been tested on over 10 citrus varieties and proven effective on oranges, grapefruits and tangerines, Thompson adds.

Stay tuned for additional coverage from the CRDF peptides virtual seminar.

This article was written by Ashley Robinson, AgNet Media communications intern in Gainesville, Florida.

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