Citrus origin and evolution genomic research could help industry fight citrus greening


In Florida, a University of Florida professor, California-based U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute researchers, and a global group of scientists have traced the evolutionary history of Florida’s signature citrus crop up to 8 million years ago in the Himalayas of Southeast Asia. Through analyses of 60 types of citrus whose genomes they sequenced, scientists identified 10 natural citrus species.

“In addition to providing an evolutionary framework for citrus, the study also contains practical applications for current growers and consumers,” said Fred Gmitter, a UF/IFAS professor of horticultural sciences and co-author of the paper.

With the new research, scientists can now work with more citrus genomic information, Gmitter said. This is especially relevant now that the citrus industry is reeling from the devastating citrus greening disease.

“That means that researchers who might be looking for genes to target for citrus greening resistance now can search through the many genomes of tolerant types and compare with sensitive types,” said Gmitter, a faculty member at the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center.