Southern Gardens Citrus Finalizing Plans to Begin Field Testing of Citrus Trees Resistant to Canker and Greening

December 4, 2008

CLEWISTON, Fla., Dec. 4 /PRNewswire/ — As part of its proactive program
to deal with disease, Southern Gardens Citrus announced its plans to plant and
field test canker and greening disease-resistant citrus trees in its groves
starting in early 2009.

Huanglongbing or citrus greening disease (HLB) is considered to be the most
serious disease of citrus anywhere it occurs in the world. HLB was first
identified and confirmed in Florida in September 2005. Three years later, HLB
now can be found in all Florida counties where citrus is grown commercially.

Southern Gardens Citrus (SGC), one of the largest citrus producers in the
state, has three groves in southwest Florida, all of which are infected to
some extent with HLB. As a result, SGC Citrus has been and continues to be
very proactive in addressing and dealing with this very serious disease.

Rick Kress, president of Southern Gardens Citrus, stated that “since this
disease was first detected in the company’s groves in 2005, the immediate
decision was to become as proactive as possible to learn about the disease and
at the same time, develop methods and procedures to deal with the disease on a
day to day basis.”

Given the current lack of successful control programs for this world-wide
disease and a general lack of basic knowledge of the pathogen and its insect
vector, SGC has instigated and participated in a wide variety of research
projects intended to develop environmentally and scientifically proven methods
to manage and control the disease. Southern Gardens is currently working with
several groups including UF/IFAS, USDA, FDACS, and other universities and
independent researchers to achieve this goal.

As a part of this total research portfolio, SGC is participating in and
sponsoring multiple projects to develop disease-resistant citrus trees. These
ongoing projects were initiated in early 2007. Based on the initial positive
results from projects with researchers from Texas A & M AgriLife and a private
Florida based company, Integrated Plant Genetics where disease resistance has
been achieved in the laboratory, the first generation of potentially
disease-resistant citrus trees arising from these two projects have been
produced and are ready to be field tested. Given initial successful results in
the laboratory, SGC has applied for and received a permit from the United
States Department of Agriculture Biotechnology Regulatory Services for one of
the projects allowing the field testing of the plants generated by this
research. It is expected that a second application will be made in the near
future to field test the trees from the second project.

Kress said the first potentially disease-resistant trees will be planted
in early 2009 in small plots to determine if the improved trees are indeed
resistant to canker and greening. It is anticipated that this initial trial
will be one of several that will be implemented in the immediate and near
future by Southern Gardens Citrus.

“A final solution for eliminating this disease could take years but the
upcoming field trial work and continuation of the research projects are a
major step in the right direction,” Kress said.

SOURCE Southern Gardens Citrus

Source: newswire

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