Newswise — GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher who uses steam to help treat citrus trees infected by greening, will receive this year’s Citrus Engineer of the Year Award.Reza Ehsani, a UF/IFAS associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering, will receive the award June 21 at the 59th Biennial Citrus Engineering Symposium at the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center (REC) in Lake Alfred, Florida.
“I am very honored and grateful to receive this award,” said Ehsani, a faculty member at the Citrus REC. “It means a lot to me because it shows my efforts and contributions to the engineering aspects of citrus production have been of value and have been noticed and recognized by my peers.”
Michael Rogers, director of the Citrus REC, touted Ehsani’s work in using steam to help citrus trees infected by greening, or HLB as it’s known in scientific circles.
“The premise of his work is that, by using steam to kill the bacteria in the above-ground portion of the tree, growers can buy additional years of productivity of a grove before it must be replanted,” Rogers said. “The machine designs he has created are being used by several startup companies around the state. He definitely deserves the recognition.”
The disease starves the tree of nutrients and produces fruits that are green and misshapen — unsuitable for sale as fresh fruit. Most infected trees die within a few years. The disease has affected millions of citrus trees in North America.
Citrus greening was first detected in Florida in 2005 and threatens to destroy Florida’s $10.9 billion-a-year citrus industry. Florida has lost about $7.8 billion in revenue, 162,200 citrus acres and 7,513 jobs to citrus greening since 2007, according to UF/IFAS researchers. Orange production dropped from 242 million to 104 million boxes in 2014, UF/IFAS researchers say.