Texas working with APHIS, California on citrus disease - The Packer

Texas working with APHIS, California on citrus disease

03/15/2012 09:31:00 AM
Don Schrack

Texas is joining California in committing itself to stopping huanglongbing.

The Texas Department of Agriculture, which discovered the state’s first infected trees in December, has joined forces with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said Ray Prewett, president of Mission-based Texas Citrus Mutual.

Prewett also said in mid-March one of his staff members was headed to California to see how that state’s successful pest education and public outreach programs could be replicated in Texas.

“After taking a tremendous number of samples before and since the find, we have only a fairly small number of positives,” he said.

The infected trees — about 35 of them — have been pulled from the two San Juan area groves about six miles from Mexico, Prewett said. All of the infected trees were within a few rows of one another, not sprinkled throughout the groves, he said.

“Time will tell,” Prewett said. “We may have found it (the disease) relatively early. We certainly hope so.”

Among the biggest fans of California’s psyllid/HLB assault plan is the state’s Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Committee, formed shortly after psyllids were discovered near San Diego in 2008.

“Everyone on the committee is extremely pleased with the aggressiveness of Sec. Ross and her decision to make sure that if HLB is found that tree removal will be immediate regardless where the tree is located, urban or rural,” said Nick Hill, a citrus grower-shipper who chairs the committee.

The California Department of Agriculture, headed by Sec. Karen Ross, revealed March 8 that it is putting into effect a plan that includes mandatory spraying if psyllids carrying the disease are discovered and mandatory removal of any trees found to have HLB.

Also known as citrus greening or HLB, the disease is carried by the Asian citrus psyllid, an aphid-sized pest that was discovered several years ago in Texas and more recently in Southern California.

California protocols are still in development, Hill said, but will include a quarantine be established around any tree found to be infected and every tree in the zone tested for the disease.

As Florida and Brazil have already discovered, symptoms of HLB are often not obvious until a few years after a tree is infected. That is not the only challenge, Hill said. The disease takes its time infecting an entire tree, so that a sample could return a negative result if taken from a still healthy section of a diseased tree, he said.

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