After finding evidence that citrus black spot disease is spreading, Florida’s citrus industry is joining together to fight it.

Citrus disease spurs survey, prevention efforts

Surveyors discovered the disease, which turns fruit black and causes premature fruit drop, in late March in a commercial orange grove near Immokalee, Fla. Since then, infections have been found in nearby Hendry County about 14 miles northeast of the first find, said Denise Feiber, public information director of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Tallahassee.

Subsequent surveys along the U.S. 27 highway corridor through Polk County, Florida’s largest citrus-producing county, have not shown additional infections, she said.

A Henry County survey is underway and is expected to be completed the week of May 10.

Survey efforts have been intensified and officials plan to work with residential citrus growers, Feiber said.

Feiber heads an outreach subcommittee of an industry working group, which met May 6 in Immokalee.

The group,  which consists of growers, shippers, state and federal officials and researchers, is examining ways to stop the disease from spreading.

The University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences plans to develop a management strategy to show growers what they can do to keep their groves free of the disease.

“Talking with people after the meeting, it appears people are satisfied this group will be very useful in addressing these issues,” Feiber said. “CHIRP (the citrus health response plan) has been in place for a few years now and is probably responsible for the detection of citrus black spot so that structure is working. Hopefully, we have come a long ways since the early canker days and can mobilize on these things much more quickly.”

The group plans to meet in late May.