Spinach could be weapon against citrus plague

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, said tests have shown orange and grapefruit trees that include the two bacteria-fighting proteins can withstand the disease, known as citrus greening.

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

On Friday, state officials announced the disease had for the first time been found in a California citrus tree.

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

It could take three or four years to prove the modified trees are safe for humans and the environment.