Researchers are studying the Asian citrus psyllid, which spreads huanglongbing, aka citrus greening disease. ( File photo )

CORRECTED April 2: Researchers studying the Asian citrus psyllid and how it spreads huanglongbing (HLB/citrus greening) say the key to beating the disease is in how the bacteria infects only that specific pest.

U.S. Department of Agriculture and Boyce Thompson Institute researchers released a report March 26 focusing on halting the ability of the psyllid to spread the Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (CLaS) bacteria to citrus trees.

The scientists are studying why some psyllids are less effective in spreading the disease, which has devastated Florida’s citrus industry, and been found in Texas, Mexico, and in non-commercial citrus trees in California, according to a USDA news release.

Boyce Thomas Institute professor Michelle Heck and researcher Marina Mann, along with the USDA-Agricultural Research Service, are studying Asian citrus psyllid nymphs, which show resistance to the CLaS bacteria.

If research is successful, growers will be in a “much better situation” in terms of controlling the spread of HLB, Dan Dreyer, chairman of the California Citrus Research Board, said in the release.

“There are still many  unanswered questions about CLaS, how it is acquired and transmitted via the Asian citrus pysillid, and how it causes the disease,” Dreyer said in the release.

Note on correction: The article originally included incorrect information about Arizona. Although Asian citrus psyllids have been found in Arizona, HLB has not been detected in the state.