Native Lime Might Keep HLB Out of Australia

Josh McGill HLB Management, International, Limes

A comprehensive map of the genome of an Australian native lime species that is resistant to HLB could be the key to preventing the disease from entering Australia.

Upuli Nakandala and Robert Henry with a native Mount White lime (Photo by Megan Pope)

Researchers from The University of Queensland (UQ) in Australia have sequenced the genome of the Australian round lime, also known as the Gympie lime. They are now looking at five other native citrus species including the finger lime.

Doctoral candidate Upuli Nakandala said the work aimed to identify a gene which provides resistance to HLB that could be incorporated into commercial citrus varieties.

“The species Citrus australis is recognized as HLB-resistant so we put it first on our list,” Nakandala said. She noted that although HLB is not currently in Australia, it’s a huge problem for citrus growers in Florida and other places.

“People have been trying to control this disease using chemicals and other methods, but there’s been no permanent solution,” Nakandala said. “One option available is to develop resistant cultivars, and the first step toward that is identifying these important resistant genes in Australian citrus.”

Robert Henry, UQ professor, said mapping the genome of Australian round limes achieved that aim. “Sequencing the genomes of plants, particularly these tree crops, will give us a new platform for genetic improvements and better management of their production into the future,” Henry said. “Our research team has the right technology at the right time. We have placed ourselves at the cutting edge of that technology, and we have the climate and the crops here that put us in a great position to make an important contribution to international efforts to solve this devastating disease problem.”

Henry said the team was also working on genomes for other tree crop species. The research was funded by Hort Innovation and the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

See the full research report published in Horticulture Research.

Source: The University of Queensland

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