HLB Research Grants Go to UF/IFAS

Ernie NeffResearch

HLB research
One of the research projects will focus on integrating the natural HLB resistance in Australian finger limes into conventional citrus.

The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) was recently awarded more than $2.2 million in federal grants for HLB research. The funding came from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Emergency Citrus Disease Research and Extension Program. UF/IFAS researchers are also serving in leadership roles in two other NIFA-funded projects, bringing total NIFA funding to UF/IFAS to more than $3.5 million.

Here are the UF/IFAS faculty involved in projects funded by NIFA:  

Kirsten Pelz-Stelinski and Bryony Bonning will direct a two-year $1,020,810 grant, which aims to provide a pathogen transmission-blocking strategy toward mitigation of HLB-related losses. The goal is to identify gut-binding peptides that compete with the bacterium that causes HLB for attachment to the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) gut. ACP spreads the disease from tree to tree. Ultimately, that process could disrupt the transmission of the bacterium by the psyllid.

Manjul Dutt, Nabil Killiny, Lauren Diepenbrock and Ozgur Batuman will focus on integrating the natural HLB resistance present in Australian limes into conventional citrus to produce HLB-resistant Australian lime hybrid rootstocks and interstocks and eventually produce HLB-resistant scions against HLB. The two-year, $500,000 grant will involve planting on stakeholder plots and greenhouse environments. 

Lauren Diepenbrock, Megan Dewdney, Ariel Singerman, Davie Kadyampakeni and Christopher Vincent will support the needs of both commercial and residential citrus growers by comparing new tools that are intended to support young tree establishment and by developing management recommendations for each tool. The project will study individual protective covers, metalized reflective mulch and red-dyed kaolin, which are thought to be visual and/or physical deterrents to the ACP. The two-year program is funded at $750,000.

Ute Albrecht, Ariel Singerman and Choaa El-Mohtar will work on a Coordinated Agricultural Project with Texas A&M University to test promising HLB therapies to kill the HLB-spreading bacterium and control HLB. The four-year, $7 million project will direct $868,792 to UF/IFAS.

Ute Albrecht and Zhanao Deng will work with the USDA and the University of California-Riverside on a two-year, $1,499,998 project that will advance existing work on 300 rootstock hybrids to identify the best performing HLB-tolerant rootstocks for commercial release with expanded collection of performance information. Researchers hope to identify and select a minimum of three new rootstock cultivars for release to growers before the end of 2023. UF/IFAS will receive $445,808 for its role in this project.

The UF/IFAS grants were part of approximately $11 million in NIFA grants awarded for HLB research.  

Source: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences

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