Australian scientists are developing a vaccine-like solution to arm citrus growers with an effective way to combat citrus tristeza virus (CTV), a significant challenge for the Australian citrus industry.
The $1.5 million initiative is being delivered through Hort Innovation and collaboratively led by the University of Queensland, the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI) and Auscitrus. Researchers will work with the citrus industry to gather information about different variants of the virus from across major citrus-growing regions so that an effective plant-protection solution can be developed.
The impact of CTV on Australian citrus crops can vary from no effect to 100% tree death, depending on the variant. CTV can cause tree decline and stem-pitting, resulting in significant loss of yield and productivity. There are only limited control options.
“Access to a CTV vaccine will be a game changer for citrus growers, as they will be able to trigger their trees’ immune response and elevate their defense systems against the virus,” Hort Innovation Chief Executive Officer Brett Fifield said.
University of Queensland principal research fellow Andrew Geering said the research will pinpoint the core causes of the virus to develop an effective in-field solution.
“CTV is a highly variable virus, with many strains known to occur,” Geering said. “Some strains are mild and may have no visible effect on citrus plants, while others can be severely destructive. Establishing a link between a particular strain of the virus and the expression of CTV has been notoriously difficult. This research will establish which strains are the core components of CTV – that is, which strains need to be present for the disease to occur. Once those strains are identified, we can reverse-engineer a dead or a mild version of those strains that can be used to trigger an immune response, in a vaccine-like manner.”
Citrus Australia Chief Executive Officer Nathan Hancock said the citrus industry hopes this investment will help growers reduce the impact of CTV on their orchards. “CTV is difficult to manage in the field, as it is transmitted by winged aphids, which are highly mobile and rapidly spread the virus between trees,” Hancock said. “Even if certified virus-free nursery plants are used to establish an orchard, the trees are prone to becoming infected after planting, which is why additional measures are needed.”
Learn about CTV in Florida’s citrus industry here.
Source: Hort Innovation
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