$5 Million Awarded to UF/IFAS for HLB Research

Josh McGillHLB Management, Research

The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) has been awarded five federal grants totaling more than $5 million to control HLB. The grants are from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).  

Nian Wang is using genome-editing technology to develop citrus varieties that are tolerant and/or resistant to HLB.

HLB is caused by the bacterium Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (CLas). The Asian citrus psyllid can transmit CLas into a citrus tree, and CLas can eventually become HLB. 

The grants are for:

Project: Genome editing for better tolerance to citrus greening
Amount: $1,042,257
Principal investigator: Nian Wang

Description: Researchers plan to use cutting-edge precision genome-editing technology to help plant breeders develop more varieties that are tolerant and/or resistant to HLB. The central hypothesis is that HLB can be controlled by mitigating reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS, such as hydrogen peroxide, are chemicals that cause damage to citrus plants. Scientists plan to prevent ROS damage caused by HLB disease by increasing the levels of antioxidant enzymes in citrus plants, which in turn will reduce ROS damage.

Project: IPM approach that delivers economic viability to citrus production with HLB
Amount: $1,128,392
Principal investigator: Lukasz Stelinski

Description: The long-term goal of this project is to render HLB functionally irrelevant by developing an integrated pest management (IPM) system that yields economic returns from citrus. The research will address three aspects of HLB: 1) suppress psyllids to the point where management decisions are based on vector density and seasonal biological events, 2) evaluate the viability of trunk injections as a therapy to reduce bacterial populations and 3) integrate the use of gibberellic acid to mitigate disease symptoms. Treatments will be implemented on a farm-scale level with growers in Florida and Texas.

Project: Enhancing the delivery of therapeutics into citrus phloem by linking sugar molecules
Amount: $974,182
Principal investigator: Amit Levy

Description: While tree-trunk injections reduce CLas, they do not specifically target the phloem, the part of the vascular system in a citrus tree through which HLB travels. Levy plans to lead a team that will add a glucose molecule to antimicrobial compounds. This should dramatically improve their delivery into the phloem and reduce the dose needed for efficient HLB control. 

Project: Rapid generation and evaluation of Eremocitrus-derived populations for HLB tolerance and fruit quality
Amount: $928,000
Principal investigator: José Chaparro 

Description: Scientists have found HLB resistance in the citrus-related species known as Eremocitrus glauca (Australian desert lime). But transferring the resistance into commercial varieties typically takes decades. Scientists propose to breed varieties of commercial quality with HLB-resistance by speeding up the breeding process using early-flowering varieties. 

Project: Multiomic dissection of HLB tolerance in B9-65 Valencia, N13-32 Hamlin, OLL-8 sweet orange and other cultivars
Amount: $1,364,478
Principal investigator: John Chater 

Description: Scientists will study scions with demonstrated HLB tolerance despite testing positive for CLas. Researchers will examine plants infected in established groves and uninfected in facilities known as citrus under protective screens. Ultimately, researchers want to distribute HLB-tolerant scions to stakeholders and to understand the biological mechanisms behind HLB tolerance for breeding HLB-tolerant and -resistant scions and for gene-editing purposes. 

Source: UF/IFAS

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