UF/IFAS Collaborates on HLB Research

Ernie NeffResearch

Small citrus tree infected with citrus greening. (UF/IFAS photo by Tyler Jones)

Several University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) faculty are collaborating with other universities and organizations on research, especially for HLB. Michael Rogers, director of the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center (CREC), summarizes the work they are doing on a variety of grant-funded projects.

Rogers starts with a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-funded project led by the University of California-Riverside (UC-Riverside) looking at new varieties for tolerance or resistance to HLB. He says a couple of UF/IFAS researchers are “playing a key role on the ground here in Florida as part of that project.” They are Ute Albrecht at the Southwest Florida Research and Education Center (SWFREC) and Zhengfei Guan at the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center. Albrecht and Guan are working on crossing potentially HLB-resistant finger limes with conventional citrus varieties, “trying to develop some new varieties that are going to be HLB tolerant or resistant,” Rogers says.

As part of another UC-Riverside-led project, UF/IFAS researchers are “looking at ways to enhance the root health of HLB-diseased trees,” Rogers reports. The UF/IFAS researchers on that project are Albrecht and two other SWFREC scientists, Ramdas Kanissery and Sarah Strauss.

UF/IFAS researchers Lorenzo Rossi and Jawwad Qureshi are working on a USDA HLB therapeutics project. Rossi, with the Indian River Research and Education Center, is working on evaluation and delivery, Rogers says. Qureshi is playing an Extension role, getting the information to growers as it becomes available.  

UF/IFAS’ Ozgur Batuman, with SWFREC, is involved in the Bayer project funded by the Citrus Research and Development Foundation. Rogers says Batuman will help screen some antimicrobial compounds to see if they slow or kill the HLB-causing bacterium in the plant.

Another UF/IFAS scientist, Michelle Danyluk at the CREC, is collaborating with Florida A&M University on a USDA Food Safety Outreach Program grant to train small farmers about food safety. “Small farms in Florida have actually been on the rise” over the past decade or so, Rogers reports. “Florida is Number 5 in the nation in terms of small farmer startups.” He explains that those small farmers often start with limited financing and need help with things like training.  

This interview with Rogers is featured in the November 2020 episode of the All In For Citrus podcast, a joint project of UF/IFAS and AgNet Media. Listen to the full podcast here.

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Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large