Breakthrough could mean greening-resistant citrus plants

Citrus growers have a reason for hope now that scientists have come up with a tree that appears to be resistant to their deadliest foe, citrus greening.

"We are excited to have PhDs and researchers giving us some help because we are close to having no citrus industry in the state of Florida," said Marty McKenna, chairman of the Florida Department of Citrus.

In the last decade, groves in Florida have shrunk from 800 to 500 acres. Citrus greening is perhaps the industry's biggest problem. It is caused by a bacteria that is spread by a tiny bug called a psyllid. Greening destroys the fruit and eventually kills the tree.

Researchers say they may have just found a solution.

"It was like one of those eureka moments," said Dr. Manjul Dutt of the University of Florida Citrus Research and Education Center.

Dutt and his lab partner extracted a gene from a relative of a mustard plant, implanted it in a citrus tree, and infected the tree with greening. Miraculously, it showed no signs of the disease.

"It could be very well a solution to the citrus greening disaster," Dutt told FOX 13.

Several federal agencies have to give the tree their approval before it hits the market. Dutt says that could take at least five years.