Researchers are turning to a plant’s own microbiome to fight the destruction of citrus greening (Huanglongbing) on Florida’s citrus trees. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded FIU scientists $500,000 to investigate natural compounds that could suppress or even eliminate the deadly bacteria that causes citrus greening. Currently, no cure exists for this disease that has left its mark on Florida’s citrus production, causing more than a 70% reduction in orange crops since first appearing in the state in 2005. FIU Institute of Environment researcher Kateel Shetty is leading this search for an antimicrobial compound that could help citrus growers gain control over this bacterial scourge.
If the compound that combats the bacteria in an infected tree can be identified, the team's theory is that the tree will thrive and be a productive fruit producer. It could also slow or even stop the spread of the disease to other trees.
Shetty, an associate professor of agroecology in the Department of Earth and Environment, believes they may be able to identify a natural compound because of preliminary findings from one of his current Ph.D. students while she was working on her master’s degree at FIU in 2019.