Rapid and noninvasive diagnostics of Huanglongbing and nutrient deficits on citrus trees with a handheld Raman spectrometer


Huanglongbing (HLB) or citrus greening is a devastating disease of citrus trees that is caused by the gram-negative Candidatus Liberibacter spp. bacteria. The bacteria are phloem limited and transmitted by the Asian citrus psyllid, Diaphorina citri, and the African citrus psyllid, Trioza erytreae, which allows for a wider dissemination of HLB. Infected trees exhibit yellowing of leaves, premature leaf and fruit drop, and ultimately the death of the entire plant. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and antibody-based assays (ELISA and/or immunoblot) are commonly used methods for HLB diagnostics. However, they are costly, time-consuming, and destructive to the sample and often not sensitive enough to detect the pathogen very early in the infection stage. Raman spectroscopy (RS) is a noninvasive, nondestructive, analytical technique which provides insight into the chemical structures of a specimen. In this study, by using a handheld Raman system in combination with chemometric analyses, we can readily distinguish between healthy and HLB (early and late stage)-infected citrus trees, as well as plants suffering from nutrient deficits. The detection rate of Raman-based diagnostics of healthy vs HLB infected vs nutrient deficit is ~ 98% for grapefruit and ~ 87% for orange trees, whereas the accuracy of early- vs late-stage HLB infected is 100% for grapefruits and ~94% for oranges. This analysis is portable and sample agnostic, suggesting that it could be utilized for other crops and conducted autonomously.

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The authors thank Texas A&M University-Kingsville, Citrus Center, and Riofarms, TX, for access to the citrus orchards.


This study was supported by funds from Texas A&M AgriLife Research, Texas A&M University Governor’s University Research Initiative (GURI) grant program (12-2016/M1700437) to DK, and USDA-NIFA-AFRI (2018-70016-28198) to KKM.

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Correspondence to Dmitry Kurouski.

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Sanchez, L., Pant, S., Xing, Z. et al. Rapid and noninvasive diagnostics of Huanglongbing and nutrient deficits on citrus trees with a handheld Raman spectrometer. Anal Bioanal Chem 411, 3125–3133 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00216-019-01776-4

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  • Raman spectroscopy
  • Plant diseases
  • Huanglongbing
  • Chemometrics
  • Nutrient deficiency