Can Citrus Greening Be Beaten With a Biological Approach?

Can Citrus Greening Be Beaten With a Biological Approach?

U.S. Sugar, in a partnership with Texas A&M AgriLife Research, has announced a significant step forward in research efforts in fighting diseases like citrus greening. Early-stage research has demonstrated promise in rapidly culturing and propagating fastidious pathogens and microbes, including those that cause citrus greening, and enabling testing a broad range of antimicrobial solutions.

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Led by Dr. Kranthi Mandadi at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research Center in Weslaco, the continuing research using this patent-pending invention is focused on developing and utilizing a versatile microbial hairy root-based system to cultivate pathogens that are otherwise very difficult to culture and study.

This system affords researchers and industry opportunities for much faster (four times or greater) screening. The platform is versatile and can be utilized to screen antimicrobials based on various strategies, which include but not limited to testing:

  • Transgenic methods
  • Gene-editing methods
  • RNAi molecules
  • Antibiotics and active ingredients
  • Other plant protection compounds and biologicals

Conventional screening methods in citrus typically take one to two years for screening chemistries and several years for transgenics and gene editing trials. These conventional methods delay, can impair, and prevent R&D from reaching commercial viability. Most of these strategies and potential therapies can now be screened in a much higher throughput and timely manner by utilizing Texas A&M AgriLife Research’s microbial hairy root platform.

U.S. Sugar and its subsidiary Southern Gardens Citrus continues to develop other solutions with Texas A&M AgriLife Research and other research organizations that may be helpful in the fight against citrus greening. These research solutions to citrus greening have been advancing on several tracks — including genetically engineered (GE) field trials, a permanent, but longer-range solution, and several shorter-term solutions, including Citrus Tristeza Virus vector (CTVvv). Like GE, CTVvv involves introducing spinach defensins or proteins to help fight citrus greening in trees without genetically modifying the tree.