In the quest to combat citrus greening and the insect that spreads it, UF/IFAS is studying whether viruses can help as a biological agent.

Scientists and researchers are on a mission to find a cure or treatment for combating citrus greening, and a lot of studies focus on controlling the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP), the insect that is the vector for the disease. According to a Citrus Industry article, the most commonly used method for controlling ACP is pesticide applications, but they are both costly, not completely effective, and overuse leads to resistance in ACP populations. To find another path to controlling ACPs, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) study has been looking at viruses found in ACPs to see if any could be utilized as a biological agent. See the details below.

Using ACP Viruses as a Biological Agent

Researchers are hoping to use ACP viruses to deliver RNA interference (RNAi), which is defined in the article as “a biological process in which RNA molecules inhibit gene expression by neutralizing targeted RNA molecules…” Basically, researchers are hoping viruses can be used to disrupt the ACP’s biological processes in some manner, leading to the death of the insects and the removal of the vector that spreads citrus greening.

Researchers have thus far identified seven different viruses present in ACP populations in Florida. One virus, Diaphorina citri reovirus (DcRV), was found in only two test sites, leading researchers to question whether it may be lethal to ACPs and thus a good candidate to use as a biological control.

The next step in the study is to determine if any of the viruses can be utilized to deliver RNAi to the ACP population to rid Florida of the insect, and of citrus greening.

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