UF/IFAS researchers are studying different automated systems to deliver therapeutics targeting citrus greening in citrus.

A UF/IFAS project in automated systems to deliver therapeutics in citrus is in its third year. Called “Development of an automated delivery system for therapeutic materials to treat HLB-infected citrus,” the project’s details were shared during the recent virtual UF/IFAS 2021 Ag Tech Expo. The goal of the project is to find the best system for getting therapeutics into the phloem of a citrus tree, according to a Citrus Industry article. See the details below.

Automated Systems to Deliver Therapeutics

Ozgur Batuman, UF/IFAS citrus pathologist and the project’s director, shared updates on the project into automated systems to deliver therapeutics at the Expo. The article maintains that “needle-assisted trunk infusion (NATI) was the best potential delivery method.”

The research tested a microneedle roller as the first prototype, and it worked well on citrus trees younger than two years, but it was ineffective with older trees featuring thicker bark. The next prototype tested was a drill-based machine that created clean holes but took too long. A third prototype, a punching system was not able to effectively deliver therapeutics to the various parts of the plant.

The prototype currently being tested is a gripping system that holds the tree on two sides while hollow needles puncture the trunk; project engineers are testing different needle gauges and materials. Batuman maintained that the project’s research is on-going.

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