Prevents Citrus Greening and Canker, Decreasing the Costs of Replanting
These antimicrobial compounds are effective against organisms that cause citrus greening and canker, two common diseases with significant impact on the citrus industry. Huanlongbing (HLB), also known as citrus greening disease, is the most destructive citrus disease in the world. Florida growers alone spend approximately $250 million a year defending their crops against HLB. Spread by two species of psyllid insects, HLB causes citrus plants to produce green, misshapen, bitter-tasting fruit. Citrus canker is also endemic in Florida and is highly contagious. Primarily spread by wind and rain, citrus canker causes plants to drop leaves and fruit prematurely. Ultimately, infected trees stop making fruit altogether. Growers must typically use quarantine and/or chemical control or destroy affected trees and groves to manage and prevent outbreaks. These strategies offer only limited protection against contamination and further spread of disease. On average, the $2.6 billion U.S. citrus industry produces more than 11.6 million tons of citrus fruit per year with Florida, California, Arizona and Texas producing the largest crops. Yield, especially in Florida, would be much higher if HLB and citrus canker were effectively controlled. Researchers at the University of Florida identified five antimicrobial molecules that have great potential for combating HLB and citrus canker. These compounds are effective against the bacteria that cause both citrus diseases, and may lead to a treatment and cure for infected trees.
Antibacterial compounds effective against organisms that cause citrus greening and canker
- May lead to a cure for infected trees that will allow these trees to be rescued and greatly reduce the costs associated with replanting
- May be useful against other bacterial diseases that affect annual and perennial crops as well as ornamentals, widening the potential market
University of Florida researchers have identified five small molecular compounds that are good candidates for controlling bacterial diseases of citrus. These antimicrobial compounds inhibit a protein called SecA that is found only in bacteria and thus should provide a high margin of safety for non-target species. Additional work needs to be carried out to establish the most effective concentrations and method(s) of application. Although the original targets were bacterial pathogens that have a huge impact on citrus production, these new antibacterial molecules will probably also control other bacterial diseases that afflict additional perennial crops and ornamentals.