Major HLB Discovery Announced

Ernie Neff HLB Management

A University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) researcher recently determined how bacterium causes the devastating citrus disease HLB. Information about further research into ways the discovery can help growers reverse the effects of HLB and improve tree health will be presented this fall.  

UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center (CREC) Director Michael Rogers provided the basics of the breakthrough discovery while meeting with the Highlands County Citrus Growers Association (HCCGA) governing board on Sept. 9. Rogers said the discovery was exciting news, but added that he could not provide more information about the findings because they have not been published.

Rogers did not even provide the HCCGA board with the CREC researcher’s name who made the discovery. He said more information about the discovery and how it might help growers would be presented at a Nov. 16 open house and field day at the CREC. “We’ve got some ideas and suggestions that growers can use now to improve their operations,” Rogers said. He did say the research began in 2017 and was funded by the Florida Legislature.

The discovery won’t help this year’s Florida citrus crop, but might be useful for growers in 2022, Rogers said.

Rogers also told the HCCGA board that John Chater, currently with University of California Riverside, will take an important role in the CREC’s plant breeding effort in January 2022. Chater will evaluate new UF/IFAS citrus varieties to help growers decide which varieties to plant.

Such evaluation was previously performed by Bill Castle, UF/IFAS emeritus professor, but no one has done that job in perhaps 15 years, Rogers said. Chater will evaluate varieties developed by CREC plant breeders Fred Gmitter and Jude Grosser.

“We’re excited at where this (Chater’s hiring) is going to go,” Rogers told the HCCGA board.    

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Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large

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