A study being conducted by UF/IFAS is testing the automated delivery of bactericides to citrus trees.

Florida citrus growers thought that bactericides were going to be the “silver bullet” needed to fight citrus greening. Many research studies showed that the “therapeutic chemicals” could help citrus trees combat the bacteria that causes citrus greening, but growers have not seen the same results in the grove. A University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) is looking in to whether having a robotic arm deliver bactericides into citrus trees will make a difference, according to a Citrus Industry article. See the details of the study below.

Automated Delivery of Bactericides

According to the article, UF/IFAS assistant professor of plant pathology, Ozgur Batuman, maintained that many bactericide injections might not have worked because they were not delivered directly into the citrus trees’ vascular systems where the citrus greening bacteria live. Growers would traditionally inject each tree once with a hand-held syringe; the robotic arm, in contrast, delivers bactericides through multiple needle points directly into the correct spot in the trees. “We are developing a delivery method that will send chemicals with therapeutic potential into phloem, where bacteria live,” Batuman shared in the article.

A reservoir of the bactericide chemicals would then be attached to the injection site so that the chemicals could enter the tree through the holes. The robotic are is also designed to be easy to use for growers. “The automated delivery system can be installed on any farm equipment and be operated by anyone who is driving — physically or remotely,” Batuman added.

The four-year study is being conducted via a $3.4 million grant awarded by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, a division of the USDA.

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