Citrus canker causes blemishes on fruit, leaves and stems.
Citrus canker causes blemishes on fruit, leaves and stems.

University of Florida researchers have identified the gene that makes citrus trees susceptible to the citrus canker bacterium.

In doing so, they are closer to finding a cure for the disease.

Citrus canker, caused by the bacterium, Xanthmonas citri, was confirmed in the state in 1995. Since then, it has cost the citrus industry more than $1 billion, according to a news release.

Yang Hu, a former doctoral student, working with Jeff Jones, a plant pathology professor, found the trait in the bacterium necessary for disease development.

While studying the pathogen's role in infected citrus, they identified the "S" gene, which is critical to the development of citrus canker.

They could then target control measures against the gene.

Hu and Jones said they hope to secure funding for further research. They already have identified several genes they believe could be engineered to provide broad-spectrum plant resistance to most strains of citrus canker.

Researchers from three universities worked on the project.