Field-Testing Natural Compounds to Fight HLB

Tacy CalliesAll In For Citrus Podcast, HLB Management

Lorenzo Rossi

Field tests of numerous antibacterial products and plant-derived compounds are underway with the goal of eliminating the HLB-causing bacteria in citrus and reversing plant damage to restore tree health.

University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) plant root biologist Lorenzo Rossi discusses a new research project funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture in the latest episode of the All In For Citrus podcast.

According to Rossi, the lead investigator of the project, the main goal of the study is to find a specific natural, plant-derived antimicrobial compound capable of killing Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus, the HLB-causing bacterium.

The research is a collaboration between multiple agencies and the private sector. Rossi is joined by Robert Shatters, a USDA research molecular biologist serving as the project director.

“The good thing about this project is that if there are growers who have a compound that they believe has an effect against HLB, they can bring the compound to us at UF or to Dr. Shatters at the USDA, and we will evaluate this compound with field studies,” Rossi says.

Growers who have compound suggestions are encouraged to contact Rossi (l.rossi@ufl.edu) or Shatters (Robert.Shatters@ars.usda.gov) with that information.

Rossi says researchers from Cornell University and the USDA have been studying various compounds’ effects on HLB for years, specifically in greenhouses and in the lab. This study is the first to test compounds in the field. He hopes to include outside companies in the research to speed the process of bringing a potential product to market for growers.

Hear more from Rossi on this topic in the January 2021 episode of the All In For Citrus podcast, a joint project of UF/IFAS and AgNet Media. Listen to the full podcast.

This article was written by Ashley Robinson, multimedia journalist for AgNet Media in Gainesville, Florida.