Dr. Georgios Vidalakis was born in Chania-Crete, Greece and received his B.S. in Agricultural Sciences from the Agricultural University of Athens, Greece with a specialization in Plant Protection & the Environment. In 2000, following the encouragement and guidance of Prof. Panayota Kyriakopoulou, he began a PhD project in the Department of Plant Pathology, University of California, Riverside, working with Drs. Joseph Semancik, David Gumpf and Steve Garnsey on graft-transmissible pathogens of citrus. Dr Vidalakis is currently a Professor and Extension Specialist in the Department of Microbiology and Plant Pathology, UC Riverside, where he also serves as the Director of the Citrus Clonal Protection Program (CCPP).
Dr. Vidalakis has made outstanding contributions to regulatory plant pathology and crop security by playing a leading role in the development and implementation of regional, state, national, and international citrus regulatory protocols in collaboration with industry, scientists, research institutions and regulatory agencies. He has played a key role in the transitioning of the Central California Tristeza Eradication Agency towards the more comprehensive Citrus Pest Detection Program with emphasis on Huanglongbing (HLB) diagnostics. The rapid detection and eradication of HLB infected trees in major citrus producing areas of California, such as the San Joaquin Valley, is recognized as one of the most important elements in the battle against the deadly HLB.
Dr. Vidalakis serves on multiple statewide citrus regulatory committees and provides expertise at the highest levels of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). One of his major regulatory contributions to California’s citrus was his leading role in the development and implementation of the mandatory (SB 140) Citrus Nursery Stock Pest Cleanliness Program that protected the citrus nurseries in advance of the spread of Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) and the discovery of HLB-diseased trees in California. In 2009, Dr. Vidalakis co-organized a workshop that brought the citrus industry, scientists and regulators together to draft the final set of the Section 3701 citrus nursery regulations. In addition, Dr. Vidalakis’ research developed high throughput citrus diagnostic protocols that were approved by CDFA and become the backbone of the citrus nursery disease testing program. Since the program began in 2010, Dr. Vidalakis’ laboratory has tested over 15,000 nursery samples, assuring the program’s success by eliminating graft-transmissible pathogens from the California citrus nurseries. From 2010 to 2014, citrus viroid infection rates dropped from 8% to less than 1% as a result of clean stock program.
As the director of CCPP, Dr. Vidalakis has contributed towards the solution of several national regulatory issues. The CCPP is one of the three programs responsible for the introduction of citrus varieties into the country. He quadrupled the capacity of the program to introduce citrus varieties under quarantine into the US from any citrus growing area of the world, including areas quarantined for HLB. This is seen by citrus stakeholders as one of Dr. Vidalakis’ most important regulatory contributions. His protocols broke a decades-old gridlock allowing the movement of important citrus selections and unique hybrids from Florida into California for research and commercialization. In addition, Dr. Vidalakis is one of the founding members of the National Clean Plant Network for Citrus and has been serving as the chair since its establishment in 2010. He developed the network’s charter and expanded its footprint to include 10 Citrus Centers in 9 states and U.S. territories. As a result, access to pathogen-tested citrus propagative materials has improved for all citrus-producing areas in the country. Dr. Vidalakis is also a member of the National Plant Diagnostic Network, STAR-D Laboratory Accreditation Board working towards the implementation of higher standards for our nation’s plant diagnostic laboratories.
Dr. Vidalakis has developed and executed protocols that have allowed U.S. businesses and institutions to export licensed and public domain citrus varieties to countries around the world. He served on the Citrus Panel of the North American Plant Protection Organization (NAPPO), where he was a major contributor to the development of NAPPO’s international standards, protocols and reports. Dr. Vidalakis also contributed to citrus protocols developed by the United Nations, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). In addition, his collaborations with scientists in other citrus producing countries resulted in the identification and characterization of citrus pathogens in national citrus germplasm collections, and the discovery of new species of graft-transmissible pathogens of citrus.