University of Florida research

Oak trees may help HLB-infected citrus trees

Old oak trees may hold an extract that citrus growers can use to protect their fruit trees from the deadliest citrus crop disease the world has known. The plant disease huanglongbing, or HLB / citrus greening shows its presence when leaves turn lighter shades of green.

According to officials from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Science (UF/IFAS), HLB is responsible for a 90 percent reduction in the production of Florida’s most valuable crop.

“Research scientists work with a sense of urgency to contain the pathogen and to manage HLB’s impact on our important crop,” said Lorenzo Rossi, assistant professor of plant root biology at the UF/IFAS Indian River Research and Education Center (IRREC). The district it is in, is known for its peerless grapefruit quality, where it borders the state’s central east coast, from its northernmost point in Micco, Florida, to its southernmost point in northern Palm Beach County.

For several years, growers across the state have noted that citrus trees that stood under oak tree canopies, or alongside oak trees, are healthy. However, grapefruit trees in a row or two away from the oak trees showed signs of HLB.

Rossi, along with his UF/IFAS and U.S. Department of Agriculture colleagues, works to develop management tactics for production of fruit on trees affected by HLB. Marco Pitino and Robert Shatters with the U.S. Department of Agriculture U.S. Horticultural Agricultural Service in Fort Pierce, along with Rossi, were responsible for design of the experiment and preparation of the manuscript. Liliana Cano, a plant pathologists with UF/IFAS, and Kasie Sturgeon, Christina Dorado and John Manthey were responsible for planning, conducting the experiment, and analysis of data and preparation of the manuscript.

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