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Florida Researchers Develop Greening-Resistant Citrus Trees

Greening is a disease that weakens citrus trees. The fruit becomes unusable. Photo by Amy Green / WMFE

University of Florida researchers say they have developed genetically modified citrus trees that are resistant to greening.

It is a significant step against the disease that has devastated Florida’s $11 billion citrus industry and is among the worst to hit a U.S. crop.

Researchers developed the trees using a plant gene from the mustard family.

But Jack Payne of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences says the trees still face a regulatory process that will delay their availability by several years.

“I hesitate to use the word, cure, but this is a giant step forward.”

Greening is spread by a tiny insect called a psyllid. The disease starves trees of nutrients, rendering their fruit unsuitable for sale. Most infected trees eventually die.

Experiments showed several trees remained disease-free after three years of monitoring.

Researchers say the trees also show resistance to canker and black spot.


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Amy Green

About Amy Green

Reporter and Producer

Amy Green covers the environment for 90.7 News. She is an award-winning journalist who has worked as a regular contributor for NPR, PEOPLE, Newsweek, The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor and many other top news organizations. Her in-progress book on the Everglades is under contract with Johns ... Read Full Bio »

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