Explore the research into using antibiotics in citrus to tackle some of the most devastating diseases affecting citrus today.

UF/IFAS researchers have published an Extension document, Antibiotics in Crop Production, reviewing the use of antibiotics in citrus, according to a Citrus Industry article. UF/IFAS scientists are diligently working to find solutions to diseases such as citrus greening and citrus canker, and research is ongoing as to whether antibiotics could be an answer. Explore the details below.

Antibiotics in Citrus Research

According to the article, the research shows that the use of antibiotics in citrus may be successful in the control of some bacterial diseases, but not all. Diseases that showed susceptibility to antibiotics include:

Citrus Canker. Research from 2014 showed that spray applications of streptomycin and copper sulfate showed “partial control” of citrus canker. The article cites the document as saying “In 2014, an emergency exemption (section 18) was approved by EPA, allowing the use of a hydrochloride formulation of streptomycin on Florida grapefruit. The combination of streptomycin and copper can increase efficacy and may reduce some of the risk in selecting for antibiotic resistant bacteria.”

Citrus Greening. Bactericides were approved for emergency exemption use in 2015 to combat the citrus greening. According to the article, the document maintained that “Use of antibiotics for HLB control was investigated in other countries during the 1970s and 1980s and showed some efficacy, particularly when the materials were injected into the tree (Da Graça 1991). Widespread foliar sprays of antibiotics in commercial citrus orchards in Florida have not yielded the desired results. Recent research showed reduction of pathogen levels and suppression of disease symptoms when oxytetracycline was applied by trunk injection (Hu and Wang 2016). However, this method is currently not labelled for commercial use. Until resistant cultivars are available, growers will have to continue to use an integrated management program including vector control, nutrition and irrigation management, and other strategies to control the disease and manage tree health.”

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