A national team of scientists is working from Florida to California in the citrus industryâs ongoing battle again the Asian citrus psyllid.
Among the projects is an effort led by Joseph Patt, an entomologist at the U.S. Department of Agricultureâs Agricultural Research Service office in Westlaco, Texas.
Patt is trying to determine which petitgrain oil would best mimic the volatiles emitted naturally by citrus trees, said Ted Batkin, president of the Citrus Research Board, Visalia, Calif.
The volatiles, scientists believe, help Asian citrus psyllids find host plants on which to reproduce. If Patt and his staff are able to isolate a petitgrain oil that could impersonate the natural volatiles, it could be used as bait and mixed with a pesticide, Batkin said.
âWe like the attractant and kill aspect, because thatâs not chemical and doesnât impact human health,â he said.
The Asian citrus psyllids are carriers of huanglongbing, the fatal disease also known as HLB and citrus greening.
The Citrus Research Board is helping to fund all of the projects aimed at eliminating HLBâs threat to the citrus industry, Batkin said.
Pattâs research has resulted in a synthetic mixture that in greenhouse testing proved to be attractive to the psyllids, according to a study recently published in the scientific journal, Environmental Entomology. Field tests are now under way.
âWe know, and have always known, that thereâs some volatile thatâs an attractant,â Batkin said. âWe think other of the projects will define that attractant more specifically.â
Others involved in the psyllid eradication projects funded by the research board are scientists in Florida and at the University of California-Riverside and a private research firm in Irvine, Calif., he said.
âWeâre really excited about where that whole team is going,â Batkin said.
By the end of 2011, it is anticipated that the various research projects will have identified all of the natural and synthetic attractants, he said.
âItâs more a short term approach than a long term approach,â Batkin said.