CRDF Funds Project to Arrest HLB Bacteria

Josh McGillCRDF, Research

At the latest Citrus Research and Development Foundation (CRDF) board of directors meeting, funding was approved for a project by Robert Turgeon. He is a professor of plant biology at Cornell University.


“Dr. Turgeon is considered by some to be the world’s foremost expert on phloem physiology. If his project succeeds, it could solve our problem with HLB,” CRDF chief operating officer Rick Dantzler said. “The brief summary of his project is that Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (CLas) will be arrested by antibodies, rendering the bacterium incapable of moving throughout the phloem.

“His bioassay in the CLas-hairy root assay shows that the strategy works. The board agreed to fund him for a year to test his theory on greenhouse trees and to make scions in the University of Florida’s mature tissue transformation laboratory so that we could have mature scions to test if the greenhouse trials work.”

The board also funded six oxytetracycline hydrochloride (OTC-HCl) injection trials. These experiments were considered unsuitable for the Citrus Research and Field Trial program because they would require more of grower-cooperators from a data collection and trial design standpoint than the growers might be willing to commit. These trials range from using CRDF rootstock trials, to measuring root density on treated trees, to using OTC-HCl in combination with plant growth regulators and the Vismax peptide if it is approved in May, which is expected.

“We also invited the researchers of three pre-proposals to submit their full proposals for consideration. One involves testing trees that have been rendered canker-tolerant through CRISPR gene editing to see if they are HLB-tolerant,” Dantzler said. “The second tests OTC-HCl with several pesticides and a plant growth regulator. The third develops a faster way to do CRISPR editing.”

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