The Citrus Research and Development Foundation (CRDF) held its June board of directors meeting in conjunction with Florida Citrus Mutual’s Florida Citrus Industry Annual Conference in Bonita Springs. The June gathering is when the CRDF board passes its budget for the next year.
The board funded a project by Zhanao Deng, professor of environmental horticulture with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) and Fred Gmitter, UF/IFAS professor of horticultural science. The professors believe they have identified two genes that, if knocked out, will create HLB tolerance. The term “knocked out” essentially means turning off the function a gene carries in the plant.
“Since these trees are 4 to 7 feet tall, the board funded the first year of their research, which will inoculate them with HLB and begin tracking symptoms. At the end of the year, if it looks promising, we will consider doing more,” said Rick Dantzler, CRDF chief operating officer.
The board also agreed to fund another year of the lab operated by Southern Gardens Citrus that detects Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus titer levels in trees.
“Even though fewer growers are using it, researchers still are, and this didn’t seem like the time to pull the plug,” Dantzler said. “We also believe there will be more growers using the lab this year as they seek to determine titer levels after their use of oxytetracycline trunk-injection treatments for HLB.
“In the budget we passed for next year, the board was sure to appropriate enough money for an aggressive effort to maximize the use of oxytetracycline and begin finding alternatives as we fund work on CRISPR and genetically engineered trees in search of a long-term cure for HLB.”
Learn more about CRDF-funded research here.