A Florida citrus grower and a Florida citrus researcher were quoted extensively in a recent Australia Broadcasting Corporation TV show about HLB. Grower Kyle Story and University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences plant pathologist Megan Dewdney appeared in an approximately 12-minute segment of the show Landline.
The segment’s focus was Australia’s effort to keep HLB out of its citrus groves and to prepare for its potential arrival. An Australian citrus pathologist noted that HLB is getting close to Australia, having already infected groves in Indonesia and other countries to Australia’s north.
Story told how HLB affects citrus trees and how it has hurt the Florida citrus industry. Among other things, he reported that Florida had about 12,000 growers when HLB first appeared in Florida in 2005, but now has only about 2,500 growers. He said growers have tried to control the HLB-spreading Asian citrus psyllid for 15 years, “but we have not had a tremendous amount of success.”
The show reported on Dewdney’s research into the use of a peptide in Australian finger limes as an HLB treatment. The peptide was identified by University of California researchers.
Dewdney and others were shown working in Florida field trials utilizing the finger lime peptide. Dewdney pointed out that numerous promising HLB treatments that worked in the greenhouse or in small, controlled plantings have failed to work in the grove. “I have high hopes that this one will not” fail, she said.
Dewdney noted that the focus of her research is on getting fruit that sizes well and tastes good. “If the fruit don’t taste good or they just don’t size up, then that is not really very much use,” she said.
The show also included interviews with some Australian growers. One was using traps in hopes of detecting Asian citrus psyllids early if they get into his grove. Another Australian grower reported seeing the devastation HLB has wreaked on Florida groves.
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