Explore the latest research into controlling Asian citrus psyllids and combat citrus greening.

Research is ongoing into many different areas to combat citrus greening, a deadly disease that has decimated the Florida citrus industry since 2005. One avenue of research is controlling Asian citrus psyllids, the vector that spreads citrus greening. Two presentations were given at the Citrus Expo concerning current research into new ways to control the tiny psyllids. Those presentations were discussed in a Citrus Industry article. See a summary below.

Controlling Asian Citrus Psyllids

Bt Toxins

These toxins are created by a bacterium, and have applications in controlling pests in other crops, but aren’t very effective against psyllids. Bryony Bonning, a UF/IFAS researcher explains, “They don’t work terribly well, typically, against sap-sucking insects such as Asian citrus psyllid.” However, Researchers are trying to increase the Bt toxins’ efficacy against psyllids. Bonning said researchers are trying “to increase toxin binding to the gut, which is the first step in having the toxin kill the insect.” Researchers also have to find a way to get the toxins into a citrus tree’s phloem.

Bonning maintained that the research was in its early phase. “It’s going to be a while” she said. “The Bt toxins are being developed as an additional tool to use in integrated pest management. There won’t be any one silver bullet for the problem.”

RNA Interference

Also called RNAi, this is a “new technology where we can silence important genes in Asian citrus psyllid, causing mortality or inability to fly, and/or increase pesticide susceptibility,” explained Nabil Killiny, another UF/IFAS researcher. “RNAi is a promising and potential tool to control Asian citrus psyllid but is not ready yet for application in the field. Combinations of RNAi and other methods such as pesticide application or Bt-toxin could offer a very efficient control strategy.”

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