Attacking Asian Citrus Psyllid from the Inside

Josh McGillHLB Management, Pests, Research

In the latest episode of the All In For Citrus podcast, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) entomologist Kirsten Pelz-Stelinski discussed her research on the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) and a new grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture to further her work.

Kirsten Pelz-Stelinski is working to stop psyllids from spreading HLB.

The goal of the research is to use bacteria already present inside the ACP to manipulate the pest so it can no longer be a vector of the pathogen that causes huanglongbing (HLB). The process is building on previous research Pelz-Stelinski and colleagues have conducted to manipulate the ACP.

“Compared to other pests, the ACP is certainly one of the most significant in agriculture,” she says. “In terms of citrus and fruit agriculture, it is one of the most devastating because of its role in vectoring HLB.”

One of the characteristics that make the ACP such a problem is its ability to pick up the HLB bacterium so efficiently from infected trees. Researchers have been trying to disrupt this acquisition of the disease.

The new research will isolate peptides in the gut of the ACP that are associated with the acquisition of the HLB bacterium. “We want to come up with a way to get those peptides produced in the ACP,” Pelz-Stelinski says. “We can use the bacteria in the pest to produce these peptides, so the psyllid can no longer harborLiberibacter (the HLB bacterium).”

Simply put, the research hopes to cut the bridge between the pathogen and its vector. Once perfected, the technology would allow the release of altered ACP populations that are not capable of vectoring HLB. Altered ACP would mate with the native population, and the inability to transmit HLB would spread through the population.

To hear more about this research project, listen to the February episode of the All In For Citrus podcast, a joint project of UF/IFAS and AgNet Media.

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