Can Science Save California Citrus From Greening Disease?
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Can Science Save California Citrus From Greening Disease?

It’s a disease that has potential of wiping
out the central California citrus industry, and this is the very last area in the world
that you can grow fresh citrus. There is an insect that actually carries this
bacterium. The insect is called a cyllid, but it’s very
much like a mosquito. If they happen to carry, there’s a bacterium,
the bacterium that causes citrus greening disease. Then they will spit that bacterium into the
plant and that is how the plant becomes infected; making the fruit appear smaller, the fruit
appears green, and it ends up having a metallic, very bitter, and sour taste to it. No citrus is immune and all trees, regardless
of what the origin is, will eventually succumb to this disease and they will die. The impact of the disease potentially in California
could be worse, then it could happen faster because the Florida orange industry is mainly
there to provide orange juice. The industry was able to respond to the presence
of the disease by blending the juice to some extent to get rid of the flavor team that
is caused by the presence of the bacterium. But here in California, the industry is almost
entirely a fresh market industry. The impact of this disease on a fresh fruit
citrus industry is much more catastrophic. So if you like to put lemon on your on your
fish, or on your seafood, or you like to use limes in your guacamole, or any type of food
where you actually put citrus juice in, that’s going to be gone. You’re gonna have to find other ways to acidify
the food, and that’s going to change flavor, and it’s going to change everything on how
we eat. So I think it’s it’s a huge problem and I
don’t think a lot of people really recognize how far-reaching, or even think about how
they consume citrus in their daily life. It’s not just, you know, picking up an orange
and eating an orange. But it’s… it’s used in so many different
foods. There is not going to be any one magic silver
bullet that’s going to completely eradicate the disease. So we need to have early detection right now
in order to stop the disease from spreading. With our work we’re trying to be able to detect
this disease very early on, before its detectable using the DNA based methods. And we’ve proven that once the bacterium comes
into the tree the entire tree puts out a response, and we can detect that response using our
technology, and this is what we’re hoping to move forward to help combat this disease. Essentially identifying trees and then having
those trees removed. This will buy us some time. Long term, what we really need is resistant
citrus that can’t be infected by the pathogen. And one way that we’re trying to do that is
to identify resistance genes and introduce them together, or simultaneously into one
genetic background. So that we would then have sweet orange that
would have multiple genes for resistance against the pathogen, that would be truly resistant
in the field. We have to figure out how to keep our trees
in our orchard safe and free of this long, long, being here in central California as
long as possible. There are a few things that we are doing that
are giving us hope. I’m fairly optimistic that we should be able
to address this and the scientists and industry will rise to the challenge. It would be better for us to nip this thing
in the bud while it’s still in its early stages, and so that we can preserve fresh citrus for
generations to come.

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