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Delicious and Disease-free: Scientists Attempting New Citrus Varieties

New hybrid citrus fruit bred for disease resistance and flavor. Image courtesy of Chandrika Ramadugu/UCR

University of California Riverside (UCR) scientists are betting an ancient solution will solve citrus growers’ biggest problem by breeding new fruits with natural resistance to a deadly tree disease. The hybrid fruits will ideally share the best of their parents’ attributes: the tastiness of the best citrus, and the resistance to Huanglongbing, or HLB, displayed by some Australian relatives of citrus.

There is no truly effective commercial treatment for HLB, also called citrus greening disease, which has destroyed orchards worldwide. The disease has already been detected in California, where 80 percent of the country’s fresh citrus is grown. However, it has not yet been detected in a commercial grove.

To prevent that from happening, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture has awarded a UC Riverside-led research team $4.67 million. Chandrika Ramadugu, a UCR botanist leading the project, helped identify microcitrus varieties with natural resistance to HLB about eight years ago. For more information, read the UCR News.


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