The Florida Citrus Industry needs all the scientific advancements and breakthroughs it can get to fight citrus greening. Citrus greening, or HLB, has been attacking Florida’s citrus industry since it was detected in a South Florida grove in 2005. Forecasters haven’t given the Florida citrus industry too much longer to remain economically viable if the tide isn’t turned through some new technology or breakthrough.

The latest development is the CRISPR gene editing process out of the UF/IFAS Lake Alfred Citrus Research & Education Center (CREC) labs of Dr. Nian Wang. Dr. Wang is UF’s lead scientist working on citrus greening, and he and his team of post-doctorate researchers believe that the CRISPR gene editing technology could stop citrus greening in its tracks, according to a Lakeland Ledger column on the Dr. Wang’s research.

Wang has used the CRISPR technology to combat citrus canker, and he believes a breakthrough with citrus greening is close at hand. The technology involves tricking a citrus tree into sending instructions to its own DNA to ‘snip out’ the gene sequences that allow the bacteria behind citrus greening into the citrus tree’s cells. It is likened to an ‘off switch’ for citrus greening.

Greenhouse testing and field testing are up next to validate the lab work and verify the science. An additional attraction of the technology is that it could, in theory, allow a citrus tree to be produced conventionally, rather than using genetic engineering; many consumers object to genetically modified or altered foods (GMOs). Dr. Wang’s CRISPR method sidesteps GMO objections altogether. Hopefully, it will be a much-needed breakthrough for the Florida citrus industry.

Griffin Fertilizer is committed to helping both growers and ranchers make sound agronomic and economic decisions in order to maximize the health of their grove and pasture. As a full-service custom dry & liquid fertilizer blender and crop protection product distributor, we will continue our mission to further advance Florida agriculture. For questions or concerns about your farm or pasture, contact us and one of our team will be in touch.