UF/IFAS plant pathologist maintains citrus tristeza virus (CTV) is still a threat to Florida citrus, especially in light of citrus greening.

Before citrus greening was detected in Florida in 2005, citrus growers were dealing with citrus tristeza virus (CTV). In response to CTV, growers move away from using sour orange rootstock, because it was susceptible to CTV decline, according to a Citrus Industry article. However, in the following fight against citrus greening, it was found that sour orange rootstock was less susceptible to the bacteria that causes citrus greening, and many growers are switching back. Explore why UF/IFAS plant pathologist Amit Levy is adamant it’s a bad idea.

Citrus Tristeza Virus and Florida Citrus

Levy gave a presentation at the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred outlining the dangers of CTV. “Switching to non-sour orange rootstock eliminated the danger from CTV decline. But now, with HLB, growers are switching back,” he said. CTV is spread by the brown citrus aphid, and Levy added, “it is sometimes assumed that the brown citrus aphid was eradicated by the psyllid spray programs, but this is not correct.”

CTV was found in all 20 test sites during a UF/IFAS study looking to identify viruses that may be useful as a biological agent against the Asian citrus psyllid, the vector that spreads citrus greening. “CTV was found on sour orange rootstocks in both Polk and Indian River counties. Results demonstrate CTV is still present in Florida,” he said.

Levy ended with the recommendation that the benefits of using sour orange rootstock may not outweigh the dangers of CTV. “CTV is here, and the aphids are also; they are not gone … From the perspective of plant pathology … I would recommend avoiding sour orange rootstock as much as possible.”

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