Huanglongbing or citrus greening disease, seems to be spreading to citrus trees across the globe, with more than 10 million diseased trees destroyed all over China each year and over $1.3 billion in lost revenue to the citrus industry over the last five years in Florida.
To combat the disease, Shahzad Munir, a Pakistani researcher based in China's Yunnan Agricultural University, is working with a team of Chinese scientists headed by Prof. Dr. He Yueqiu to spearhead innovative research into the biological control of this century-old malaise and has pioneered the use of endophytes to contain the virus.
Endophytes are a unique kind of bacteria or fungi that live inside a plant, but unlike the bacteria that cause HLB, they pose no harm to the plant and can be beneficial to plant growth, Munir explains.
Primarily focusing on utilising endophyte-mediated resistance to combat citrus greening, Munir stated that an indigenous endophyte, Bacillus subtilis L1-21, has been isolated from healthy citrus trees, and that in the past six years, the endophyte “has been tested and demonstrated in nearly 164 acres of citrus fields across China with promising results, and has been developed into commercial products on a large scale.”
The researcher sees the potential for the successful implementation of this endophytic technology in Pakistan. "The endophyte we used in our research could easily be applicable in most citrus-growing regions worldwide. We had plans to transfer our technology to Pakistan, but these were delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic."