Hamlin orange trees that are genetically engineered to produce a natural insecticide to ward off Asian citrus psyllids might be planted in Florida fields as soon as the required permits are granted. The trees which have been three years in the works, were developed by Cornell University scientists. Plant pathologists Herb Aldwinkle and Kerik Cox identified a handful of naturally occurring insecticides in their studies.
The researchers found some tests successfully staved off the tomato pests and inserted the most promising genetics into the Hamlin orange plants. Aldwinkle says he hopes to have at least preliminary trial results within one year. They are working with Southern Gardens Citrus Inc. of Clewiston.
Technicians used genetic engineering to insert the insecticidal genes individually and in groups into tomato plants. The plants were then exposed to tomato psyllids, which are closely related to Asian citrus psyllids. Asian citrus psyllids carry bacteria responsible for citrus greening, or huanglongbing. The disease is harmless to humans but causes citrus fruit to remain green, causes an off taste in the fruit, stunts citrus trees and may even kill trees.
Source: The Grower