You may have noticed that citrus is on the verge of being wiped out; citrus greening first showed up in Florida almost ten years ago, and now 80% of groves there are affected - and it's spread to Texas and California. Growers and many others are understandably panicked by the bacterial epidemic, which presently continues unabated. Although it affects all citrus, it's the orange crops that really generate the income, and most of those go into juice production.
One promising means for combating the infection and potentially saving the entire industry derives from an unlikely source: spinach.
Mirkov was fortunate that a group of Spanish scientists had dedicated themselves to grinding up a wide variety of plants to discover their defensive proteins. They had identified a potent one in spinach, of all things, that attacked a wide variety of bacteria and fungi. Spinach has several such proteins, it turned out; incorporating just a couple into a tree might give it resistance to a broad spectrum of diseases.
That's exactly what Mirkov and his colleagues did, copying the genes that encode several of these proteins into an orange tree's DNA.
The technique seems to confer a high level of resistance to the greening bacterial infection; there's just one little issue remaining: given the current uproar over "frankenfoods" amongst the low-info crowd, are people going to be willing to drink orange juice from trees that have some spinach genes incorporated into them?