Read about a UF-led update on the possibilities of HLB-resistant trees.
Researchers are looking at all avenues to beat citrus greening, also known as HLB. One such avenue was the hope of finding HLB-resistant trees. This is according to Fred Gmitter, a plant breeder with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS); he discussed the topic as the leadoff speaker at an “OJ Break” in Bartow in January. That update was summarized in a CitrusIndustry.net article; read excerpts below.
The Possibility of HLB-Resistant Trees
UF researchers like Gmitter asked growers for information about so-called “survivor trees,” or citrus trees that seemed to be HLB-resistant trees. They were trees that were healthy and producing in the grove while other trees were dying. “We looked at dozens of (survivor) trees that growers told us about and Extension agents found. We collected samples of budwood, grew off trees, inoculated them (with HLB). They all came down with the disease. We looked at possible rootstock effects.”
The hope was to find traits that made the trees resistant or immune to HLB. Unfortunately, Gmitter reported that so-called survivor trees didn’t seem to have any special immunity or resistance. “There always had to be the first tree that got infected, and it stands to reason that there eventually would be the last tree to get infected. And in most cases that seems to be what we were finding,” he said in his presentation.
Gmitter didn’t rule out the possibility of finding HLB-resistant trees. “So I wouldn’t say it’s impossible that we’re going to find something like that (HLB resistance among survivors), but it really is a huge challenge and the likelihood is so small, based on our experience, that we’re going to find a truly resistant, HLB-immune tree by this process,” he shared.
He also didn’t rule out the finding of such trees, but added that the timeline for such developments was a long one. He said that in the meantime, there are “lots of things that growers can cobble together, and hopefully if done in the right way, can make a profit and stay in business.” According to the article, Gmitter maintained such efforts include the use of HLB-tolerant rootstocks and scions, new pest management techniques, and nutrient management.
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