Consensus Report

A Review of the Citrus Greening Research and Development Efforts Supported by the Citrus Research and Development Foundation: Fighting a Ravaging Disease (2018)

Each report is produced by a committee of experts selected by the Academy to address a particular statement of task and is subject to a rigorous, independent peer review; while the reports represent views of the committee, they also are endorsed by the Academy. Learn more on our expert consensus reports.

Citrus greening disease poses a serious danger to the U.S. citrus industry. Associated with a bacteria that is spread by the Asian citrus psyllid, the infection results in blotchy mottling of leaves, stunting of shoots, gradual death of branches, and small, deformed fruits with bitter juice. Citrus greening disease cost Florida a cumulative loss of $2.9 billion in grower revenues from 2007 to 2014.

The Citrus Research and Development Foundation (CRDF) is a $124 million state citrus-industry initiative that has invested nearly 90 percent of its funds in research to combat citrus greening. Conducted at CRDF's request, this study reviews the foundation's research portfolio. The review finds that, although the foundation was responsive to recommendations from a previous National Academies study, citrus greening has progressed from an acute to a chronic disease throughout Florida. Significant barriers to fighting the disease persist, including the inability to culture the bacteria in the laboratory, the lack of advanced diagnostics for early disease detection, and the absence of standardized research methodology that would improve the comparability of results across studies.

The study concludes that a single breakthrough discovery for managing citrus greening in Florida is unlikely. The report calls for a systems approach to citrus greening research prioritization and the strategic distribution of resources for research leading to effective disease management. Growers in the state will need short-term solutions for the industry to remain viable. In the long run, citrus greening solutions would likely utilize new technology, such as gene modification and gene editing, focusing on targets that mediate molecular interactions among plant, bacteria, and the vector.