Citrus greening has spread in three Texas counties where oranges and red grapefruit are grown, establishing a “stronghold” in commercial groves and residential trees, according to Texas Citrus Mutual.
As of Aug. 22, there were 430 infected trees in commercial groves – including more than 50 in one block alone – and 207 infected trees in residential areas. Hidalgo, Cameron and Harris counties are under quarantine because of citrus greening, also known as huanglongbing or HLB.
The Texas Department of Agriculture is requiring all citrus trees in a 10-county area to be produced in an enclosed certified structure, to help keep the disease from infecting nurseries, according to a news release.
“The question weighing heavily on the minds of growers and many others in South Texas is whether Texas can avoid a catastrophic situation for our citrus industry, which wasn’t the case for our eastern neighbors in Florida,” said Ray Prewett, president of Texas Citrus Mutual, in the release.
The “nature and prevalence” of citrus greening in Texas has changed since it was first found in Rio Grande Valley groves in 2012, according to the release.
“It is simply too early to know how the situation will unfold,” said Prewett. “However, we know that all Texans, from commercial growers to nursery owners to homeowners, must continue to be aggressive in their efforts to slow the spread of the disease.”
The disease is concentrated in the mid-valley region north of Expressway 83 to FM 107 and FM 88 west to Tower Road, according to the release.
The Texas Citrus Pest and Disease Management Corp., established by the state legislature, has developed best management practices for controlling the Asian citrus psyllid, which spreads the disease. That group and Texas Citrus Mutual have been working with residents, growers and marketers to fight the disease through:
- Integrated Pest Management;
- Removing infected trees; and
- Planting disease-free trees in commercial groves and residential areas.
TexaSweet Citrus Marketing Inc. focused on educating residents about the threat of citrus greening during the 2013-14 season. The program targeted citrus tree owners, educating them on what to look for and how to report it if they see symptoms.
The campaign used TV, radio, newspapers, magazines and direct mail to reach consumers and citrus tree owners.