Many people believe genetics will be the eventual key that unlocks more permanent solutions to HLB. Whether it be traditional breeding or new technologies, one day there could be a citrus tree that is resistant or tolerant enough to make the disease a non-factor.
One such key could be CRISPR technology to deliver a tree that is engineered to resist HLB. That is the topic of the All In For Citrus podcast October episode. Podcast host Frank Giles and Michael Rogers, director of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Citrus Research and Education Center, have an extended discussion on the topic.
Rogers said there has been a great deal of interest among growers about the potential use of CRISPR to develop a tree resistant or tolerant to HLB. While a good deal of research progress has been made with the technology, he wants to set realistic expectations about the timeline of the research. It is a time-consuming process that targets single genes within the citrus DNA. Cells are grown starting in a Petri dish before eventually growing into a traditional citrus plant. Only then can testing in the field be conducted to see if true resistance has been achieved.
During the podcast, Rogers details the research being conducted by Nian Wang, a UF/IFAS microbiologist, who has pioneered CRISPR work in citrus. Wang was the first scientist in the world to transform citrus using the CRISPR technique.
Wang has already transformed four lines of citrus to be resistant to canker. These plants are a proof-of-concept as the research targets HLB resistance. Rogers said there is more work to be done, but Wang’s CRISPR science holds much promise.
To hear more about CRISPR and the search for HLB resistance, don’t miss the October episode of All In For Citrus. The podcast is a joint partnership between AgNet Media and UF/IFAS.
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