Brazil: Pheromone identified from insect that transmits citrus greening (HLB)

Researchers grouped in the National Institute of Science & Technology for Semiochemicals in Agriculture, based in São Paulo State have identified and synthesized the sex pheromone of the Asian citrus psyllid Diaphorina citri. This tiny bug acts as a vector for the bacteria that cause citrus greening, best known as Huanglongbing (HLB or ‘yellow dragon’ in Chinese). HLB originated in Asia and now affects most citrus groves worldwide.

The disease is devastating for the industry because infected trees must be eradicated. The synthesized sex pheromone can be used as bait in traps to lure the insects, kill them, and prevent mating.

The discovery was made by scientists at the University of São Paulo's and the Citrus Defense Fund in Brazil, in collaboration with colleagues at the University of California in the US. Their findings were recently published in an article in Scientific Reports.

According to a sciencedaily.com article, it will now become possible to synthesize the substance and use it in traps to attract and kill the Asian citrus psyllid, helping control the worst pest faced by the citrus industry. In Florida alone, orange production has decreased in the order of 90 million boxes in the last 15 years.


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