A large UF/IFAS-led research project studies combating citrus greening within a citrus trees vascular system, namely, the phloem.

The bacteria that causes citrus greening is located chiefly in a citrus tree’s phloem. Part of the vascular system, phloem is the tissue in plants that conduct sugars and other metabolic products from the leaves. A “massive project” is currently underway to study the vascular system of trees and how to combat citrus greening within the phloem, according to a Citrus Industry article. Explore the details below.

Getting to the Phloem

When growers experienced less success with bactericides than scientists saw in the lab, it was hypothesized that the reasoning behind it stemmed from how hard it is to get materials like bactericides into a citrus trees’ phloem. “That is very difficult to reach to kill … by conventional methods, such as foliar spraying or drenching with bactericides,” explained UF/IFAS plant pathologist Ozgur Batuman, who is part of the multi-organization team studying citrus trees’ vascular systems.

That team is developing an automated system consisting of a robotic arm and piercing device that could deliver bactericides into a citrus tree’s phloem. Batuman expressed his hope that a prototype could begin field trials by the end of 2019 and that a working system could be operational in participating groves within a year after that. He also added that the team is developing the tech with an eye towards expenses. “Hopefully, this automated system will be economically feasible for most growers,” he said in the article.

It is hoped that the system could also be used to deliver systemic pesticides or even immunizations to healthy young citrus trees. It’s another item on a long list of ag tech, like AI and robotics that are being used to fight citrus greening

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