Researchers are working with the gene editing technology CRISPR to help citrus trees be more resistant to the disease Huanglongbing (HLB). Efforts continue on working to determine how the pathogen infects the tree and how the disease develops to hopefully establish an effective means of combating HLB.
“Some of our collaborators have been looking at what genes in citrus give rise to susceptibility,” said Postdoctoral Scholar at UC Riverside, Karl Haro von Mogel. “What genes in our trees are allowing the disease to progress, allowing it to infect. So, what we’re going to do is edit those genes to turn them off.”
Using CRISPR technology will allow researchers to more effectively examine the genetics of citrus varieties to determine weaknesses. “If a gene is let’s say suppressing one of the plants defenses, if we turn off that suppressor then the plants defense will be able to do its job,” Haro von Mogel noted. “Our hope is to then create varieties like…the Washington navel but have a few genes edited that will allow it to be resistant to the disease.”