Texas steps up citrus greening defense

01/25/2012 08:17:00 AM
Andy Nelson

Courtesy Texas Dept. of AgricultureTexas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples (right), tours a Rio Grande Valley citrus grove Jan. 24 with David Kostroun, the department's chief administrator for agriculture and consumer protection. Staples met with growers to talk about the recent discovery of citrus greening disease in the valley.Texas citrus groves have been treated for psyllids and a detection survey is underway in the wake of the discovery of citrus greening in the Lone Star State.

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples announced those and other measures in a Jan. 24 meeting with grower-shippers and nursery operators at the McAllen Chamber of Commerce in McAllen, which was attended by about 30 growers, said Ray Prewett, president of Mission-based Texas Citrus Mutual.

The department and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service found the disease in a tree in a commercial orange grove in San Juan in the first half of January.

As of Jan. 24, nine trees had tested positive for citrus greening, Prewett said. All are in the same valencia orange grove within a five-mile quarantine area around the first tree in San Juan found to be infected.

Citrus harvested in the quarantined area must be free of leaf material and debris before it can be shipped outside the area. All commercial growers have temporarily suspended their harvests in the area, which encompasses about 900 acres of citrus groves, Prewett said.

Prewett praised the department for its work trying to prevent the spread of infected plant material.

“The department really stepped up,” he said. “A number of employees worked all weekend and did a great job of preventing the movement of any plant material outside the quarantine area.”

The original quarantine, established Jan. 13, has been extended through Jan. 27 and will likely be extended again, Prewett said. A federal quarantine will later be added to the state quarantine, he said.

At the McAllen meeting, Staples and grower-shippers discussed strategies for controlling citrus greening, which has destroyed hundreds of thousands of acres of citrus in Florida. After the meeting, growers, nursery operators and media toured the grove where the infected trees were found.

Groves have been treated for Asian citrus psyllids, the pests that carry greening, in the quarantine area. In addition, the department has initiated a detection survey to determine the spread of the disease. Staples also announced that a panel of citrus industry, government and academic experts has been formed to aid the department in its efforts to limit the disease’s spread.

Greening also has been found in Georgia, South Carolina and Louisiana.

Asian citrus psyllids had been found earlier in Texas, but they tested negative for greening. Psyllids testing negative also have been found in citrus-producing states California and Arizona.

Citrus greening has cost Florida $3.6 billion in lost revenues and 6,611 jobs, according to a recent study by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.



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