Disease is threatening U.S. citrus crop

Feb 21, 2014 Ann Filmer University of California, Davis
Asian citrus psyllid being studied at UC Davis Research Containment Facility.

Feb. 21, 2014
(from McClatchy Washington Bureau)

Damage to a citrus tree caused by Asian citrus psyllid. (photo: Calif. Dept. of Food and Agriculture)
Damage to a citrus tree caused by Asian citrus psyllid. (photo: Calif. Dept. of Food and Agriculture)

In a secure Biosafety 3 containment facility at the University of California, Davis, researchers are required to de-robe, pull on scrubs and pass through negative pressure doors — something like an airlock — before they can begin their work. Leaving requires a shower and more airlocks.

“Everything is completely contained,” said MaryLou Polek, whose organization [Citrus Research Board] helps fund some of the research done at the facility. “They can’t even take a notebook out. They have to email their results out.”

The building is called the UC Davis Research Containment Facility. And in this state-of-the-art operation, researchers work with exotic pests and pathogens that threaten U.S. agriculture and natural resources — things such as the glassy-winged sharpshooter and the brown marmorated stink bug.

Carolyn Slupsky

They’re also studying what may be the biggest threat these days to the U.S. citrus industry: the Asian citrus psyllid, which causes citrus greening (huanglongbing).

Professor Carolyn Slupsky, in both the Department of Nutrition and the Department of Food Science and Technology at the University of California, Davis, said one of the first steps is to understand exactly how the pathogen affects the plant — a difficult prospect, since it will only grow in a citrus tree, not in a test tube.

(Read the full article, by Chris Adams, Feb. 7, 2014, McClatchy Washington Bureau)

Additional information:

  • Nutritionist Carolyn Slupsky finds clues to saving citrus from dreaded disease, UC Davis NewsBeat news blog, March 6, 2013
  • Asian citrus psyllid and huanglongbing disease; UC IPM publication                                                  

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