Citrus researcher Nian Wang has been appointed to the Graves Eminent Scholar Chair in Biotechnology at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS). Wang is a professor of microbiology and cell science at the Citrus Research and Education Center (CREC). He was appointed to the chair because of his work to develop a tree resistant to HLB.
The endowed chair was established in 1987 in honor of citrus growers Mr. and Mrs. J.R. (Rip) Graves. It was previously held by Professor William Dawson until his retirement.
Wang has perfected the use of the gene-editing CRISPR technology to edit the citrus genome in a non-transgenic way. His technology can support the development of new citrus varieties using a type of gene-based scientific process that is increasingly being used in agricultural research.
Wang and his team have already developed a citrus variety that is considered resistant to citrus canker disease. They are making key advancements to developing varieties that are resistant to HLB. Also known as citrus greening disease, HLB is a global citrus disease that is responsible for negatively impacting nearly 100% of Florida’s commercial citrus groves and dramatically decreasing annual citrus production and fruit quality.
“This appointment is a worthy recognition for Dr. Wang’s many contributions and accomplishments to progressive citrus plant improvement,” said Michael Rogers, professor and director of the UF/IFAS CREC. “It also complements the university’s renewed commitment of additional resources to support the potential of CRISPR and biotechnology to accelerate discovering solutions to citrus greening.”
Developing an HLB-resistant citrus tree is the top priority of the citrus industry. Additional UF/IFAS strategic investments to support this initiative are infrastructure improvements including more research staff, more laboratory space and constructing a dedicated greenhouse and screenhouses to support CRISPR research projects.
UF/IFAS will also continue to support traditional plant breeding efforts for citrus.
Share this Post