Canker and Greening Resistant Citrus To Be Planted

CLEWISTON — Disease-resistant trees that could save the Florida citrus industry from its two biggest threats – greening and canker – are scheduled to be planted in Southern Gardens Citrus groves starting in early 2009, the company said Thursday.

Genetically altered red grapefruit trees already have been shown to resist the two bacterial diseases in lab tests by researchers at Texas A&M University’s AgriLife complex.

“It is a good start,” Southern Gardens President Ricke Kress said of the field experiment. Southern Gardens, a subsidiary of U.S. Sugar, owns 16,500 acres of active groves and produces and packages orange juice.

In fact, it’s believed to be the first time such experimental citrus has been planted anywhere outside a laboratory.

Greening, considered one of the world’s most serious citrus diseases, was first detected in the United States in Homestead in 2005. Infected trees produce bitter, misshapen fruit. It has since spread to 30 citrus-producing Florida counties, as well as Louisiana. Canker, a less severe bacterial disease that causes blemished fruit, was the target of an 11-year, $1.6 billion eradication program in Florida.

There is no cure for either. Read the rest of the story at Palm Beach Post.

As the story points out in some detail, citrus has been dealt a devastating blow by greening and canker. If these trees are indeed resistant, perhaps it will save some farmland from turning into parking lots and suburbs.

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