Creating an Easy and Fast HLB Test

Taylor Hillman Citrus, Pest Update, Technology

HLB test

HLB research is looking to adapt some widely used platforms to detect the disease faster and easier.

Researchers are looking for a better way to identify huanglongbing (HLB)-infected trees and that starts with creating a better early-detection HLB test. University of California Riverside Associate Professor Wenbo Ma is working on the project and says researchers have identified proteins that are produced by the bacteria that causes HLB. She says they are looking to develop an easy way for growers to test trees for those proteins.

Creating an Easy and Fast HLB Test

Ma says the research will also continue to look at how fast this test could work, and that means determining the characteristics of those proteins in the tree. The challenge with the current polymerase chain reaction test is that the bacteria has to be located where the sample is taken and Ma says this is why they are focusing on the proteins.

More about the research
From UC ANR: Because the pathogen that is associated with HLB doesn’t spread throughout infected citrus trees right away, selecting a branch to test is a shot in the dark. Wenbo Ma, associate professor in the Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology at UC Riverside, believes that the proteins secreted by the bacterium that is associated with HLB are moved rapidly throughout the tree in the phloem, the food-conducting tissue of the plant. Pathogen-specific proteins in the phloem could be a more reliable disease detection tool than the pathogen itself. Ma and her research associates developed a simple and fast method to sample the phloem. “Choose a couple of branches, cut them off and blot the cut ends on filter paper,” she said. “Back in the lab, antibodies are used to detect proteins on the membrane.” Ma has used this disease detection technique successfully to detect citrus stubborn disease. Read more about early detection.