A UF/IFAS researcher has discovered a new potential avenue for citrus greening control targeting the vector of the disease.

A University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) researcher has discovered a new method that has the potential for citrus greening control, according to a Citrus Greening article. Kirsten Pelz-Stelinski, an associate professor of entomology and nematology at the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center, has discovered a material made of nucleic acids that could reduce the vector relationship between Asian citrus psyllids and the citrus greening-causing bacteria they spread. See the details below.

A New Option for Citrus Greening Control

According to the article, the material is “small-sized single-stranded nucleic acids” called “2’-deoxy-2’-flouro-d-arabinonucleic acid antisense oligonucleotides (FANA ASO).” The material silences essential genes in both the psyllids and the citrus greening bacteria that allow the psyllids to play host to the bacteria and spread it during feeding from citrus tree to citrus tree. In lab settings, the team used the material to reduce levels of the citrus greening bacteria in the psyllids and in citrus, including after treating citrus greening-infected tree roots with FANA ASO.

In the article, Pelz-Stelinski said “The intent of this research was to find alternative, environmentally friendly tools for psyllid management as current pest management strategies have led to the development of resistance among Asian citrus psyllid populations. Understanding the relationships of essential bacteria needed for insect survival provides potentially important targets for control strategies that use bactericides. Disrupting how the psyllid acquires and processes the pathogen while impacting the nutrition and fitness of the psyllid may provide an alternative management tool in controlling transmission of the HLB pathogen.”

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