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UF/IFAS students drive toward Irma’s path to protect citrus experiment

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Some University of Florida students are heading right into the thick of the projected path of Hurricane Irma to collect citrus tree samples as part of an ongoing experiment on citrus greening.

As Hurricane Irma churns closer to Florida, the students are collecting samples from citrus trees to see if two chemicals they’re testing will help control greening, the disease that’s devastating the state’s multimillion dollar-a-year citrus industry.

On Wednesday, the students took samples from those trees before Irma makes landfall, and Thursday, they hit the road at 6 a.m. to do the same, said Claudio Gonzalez, a UF/IFAS associate professor of microbiology and cell science.

During the last two years, Gonzalez, has worked with his students to identify and test treatments that may prove promising against citrus greening. They are currently performing large-scale field trials in South Florida with two of the treatments.

The treated plants are in Lorida — which is in Highlands County — and in Fort Pierce, said Gonzalez.

“I’m super proud of the students working on this project,” Gonzalez said. “Our work in the field is not simple. During a round of treatment last week — trees need to be sprayed after sunset — one of them was bitten by a rattlesnake in the leg. Luckily, we provided them with the correct equipment, and the snake proof boots he was wearing saved him from catastrophe.”

“In spite of the recent snake incident, they are again in the field today collecting tissue samples,” he said. “We are fighting very hard from our side; together with the Florida growers we will do everything possible to save our citrus industry.”

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By: Brad Buck, 352-294-3303, bradbuck@ufl.edu

The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. Visit the UF/IFAS web site at ifas.ufl.edu and follow us on social media at @UF_IFAS.

 

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