Scientists with the University of California, Riverside (UCR) believe that are closer to a cure for citrus greening than ever before. 

Ever since citrus greening was discovered in a south Florida citrus grove in 2005, scientists and researchers all over have been working on combating the disease, also called huanglongbing. Researchers with the University of California, Riverside, believe they may have found a cure for citrus greening via a treatment derived from a naturally occurring molecule found in a wild citrus relative, according to a Growing Produce article. Explore the details below. 

Details of the Possible Cure for Citrus Greening   

Researchers have identified a molecule in Australian finger limes that is an antimicrobial peptide. Australian finger limes are a citrus variety that has a natural tolerance to citrus greening. Hailing Jin, a UCR Geneticist, identified the antimicrobial peptide in her research as to why finger limes are resistant to citrus greening. 

The antimicrobial peptide offers a host of benefits as a cure for citrus greening over current treatments. First, the peptide is a safe, naturally occurring substance that is safer for wildlife and humans alike. “It is much safer to use this natural plant product on agricultural crops than other synthetic chemicals,” Jin maintained in the article.  

Secondly, the peptide is stable when it comes to heat. Many of the antibiotics Florida citrus growers are currently using to combat citrus greening are not as effective due to The Sunshine State’s high temperatures. Jin explained that most antibiotics are temperature sensitive, so their effects are largely reduced when applied in the hot weather. By contrast, this peptide is stable even when used in 130°F heat.” 

Lastly, the peptides are cost-effective. Many Florida citrus growers are using costly monthly spraying targeting Asian citrus psyllids, the vector for citrus greening, to attempt to control the disease. Conversely, the peptides only need to be applied a few times a year, and they can even be made into a spray that works as a vaccine for young citrus trees. 

Jin assured that the peptides show great promise. She shared in the article that when the peptides are applied to trees infected with citrus greening, “you can see the bacteria drastically reduced, and the leaves appear healthy again only a few months after treatment. 

Florida citrus growers, and every other citrus-producing region in the world, are waiting with great interest to know if this truly is the cure for citrus greening they have been waiting for! 

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