Institute for Integrative Genome Biology

IIGB Scientist Receives $4M USDA Grant!

A team of researchers led by an IIGB associate professor of plant pathology Wenbo Ma has been awarded a $4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in an attempt to save the United States citrus industry from a disease that has already devastated the industry worldwide.

Huanglongbing (HLB), also known as citrus greening disease, is a bacterial plant disease fatal to citrus trees. The disease has devastated citrus trees in Asia, South America and Florida. More recently it has been found in Texas and California.

Ma and the other scientists will use the funding to study the disease at a molecular level to identify ways to stop it from killing citrus trees and develop varieties that are resistant to the disease. The project will be the first attempt to understand differences of HLB in different citrus growing areas. In this case, they are focused on California, Florida and Texas.

Ma has two collaborators from UC Riverside: Georgios Vidalakis, a cooperative extension specialist and director of the Citrus Clonal Protection Program; and Xin Ge, an assistant professor of chemical and environmental engineering at the Bourns College of Engineering. Vidalkakis will disseminate the research findings to people in the citrus industry in California, which is valued at nearly $2 billion. Ge will develop highly specific antibodies targeting SDEs for HLB detection.

Other collaborators include: Veronica Ancona, an assistant professor at Texas A&M; Gitta Coaker, an associate professor at UC Davis; Lisa House, a professor at the University of Florida; and Nian Wang, an associate professor at the University of Florida.

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