Spinach could be weapon against citrus scourge

CHRISTOPHER SHERMAN Associated Press Published:

WESLACO, Texas (AP) -- A Texas scientist hopes to use proteins found in spinach to fight a disease that is ravaging the citrus industry.

Erik Mirkov, a Texas A&M plant pathologist, says tests have shown that orange and grapefruit trees that include the two bacteria-fighting proteins are able to withstand the disease, known as citrus greening.

The disease is devastating the citrus industry, especially in Florida, where an estimated 43 percent of citrus trees are infected.

The disease hasn't yet been found in California, the nation's second-largest citrus producer.

Next month, dozens of trees developed by Mirkov will be planted in South Florida to see how they fare in a commercial citrus grove.

If successful, it could take three or four years to prove the modified trees are safe for humans and the environment.