The words ‘elicitors, metabolomics, and proteomics’ may sound like a foreign language to many growers, but these names for new experimental detection methods – five all total – could help reduce the Western U.S. citrus industry’s deadliest threat, the disease Huanglongbing (HLB).

One of the greatest challenges facing the citrus industry is HLB (citrus greening) which kills every tree infected with a bacterium vectored by the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) insect.

Determining whether a suspect tree has HLB takes a long time. The current test called polymerase chain reaction (PCR) requires 1-1.5 years from the actual infection to find out if the tree is HLB positive.

This long period can allow the psyllid to pick up the disease from an infected tree and transmit it to uninfected trees causing new infection.

The new detection tests currently under review could provide answers in as little as two to three months. This could help commercial citrus growers and homeowners detect the disease earlier, remove the trees if HLB positive, and reduce HLB transmission.

This could be a major victory against the spread of HLB.

Get the  latest agricultural news each day to your Inbox. Click here for the free Western Farm Press Daily e-mail newsletter.

“We hope by late 2014 or in 2015 to have some of these experimental methods approved and in place,” said Joseph Morse, entomologist with the University of California, Riverside (UCR).

These methods were developed by University of California and other researchers funded by grower assessments through the California Citrus Research Board.

Morse and fellow UCR entomologist Mark Hoddle discussed the ACP-HLB challenge during the 2013 Fall Desert Crops Workshop held in El Centro, Calif. (Imperial County) in November. The workshop was sponsored by Western Farm Press.

So far, California has only one confirmed case of HLB, but has psyllids in 10 counties. The disease was found in a grafted hybrid citrus tree in March 2012 in the Hacienda Heights residential area located southeast of Los Angeles.