Disease Threatens Florida Oranges

Scientists search for solutions to citrus greening disease
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 28, 2009 5:01 PM CDT
The Asian citrus psyllid is seen in this University of Florida photo provided by the University of California, Davis.   (AP Photo/University of Florida, Michael Rogers)
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(Newser) – Florida’s orange growers face a powerful adversary in a disease know by its shorthand of HLB that causes citrus trees to “green”—produce only sour, misshapen fruit, Scientific American reports. With every county in the state affected, the citrus industry has dedicated $10 million this year alone to research on how to fight huanglongbing. As a gathering of top researchers in the field got under way today, scientists are racing to create genetically modified trees immune to greening.

Another line of attack is mapping the genome of the citrus psyllid, the insect that transmits HLB. One plan is to develop a line of male insects with “lethal genes”—genetic modifications that are harmless to the individual but will render all of its offspring stillborn. "In the very south of Florida, it's been devastating," said one University of Florida researcher. "Some say the survival of the industry may depend on finding (scientific) solutions."