As California citrus growers work feverishly to stave off a future invasion of citrus tree-killing huanglongbing, Texas growers are dealing with the disease in the present.
Where HLB, or citrus greening, is concerned, the fight transcends state boundaries, and an entire citrus industry is spending a lot of money to try to keep the disease at bay, marketers say.
“The situation in Texas is more advanced than California, but there has been no real commercial impact to-date,” said Adam Cooper, vice president of marketing with Delano, Calif.-based Wonderful Citrus, Texas’ largest citrus grower-shipper.
The team-effort approach is helping, said Dante Galeazzi, president of the Mission-based Texas International Produce Association.
“We’re doing everything we can, working with California, Florida, the universities and the national government. We’ve got guys on spray programs. We continue to support all the growers. There’s so many challenges, but we continue to advocate (vigilance in fighting HLB).”
HLB was first positively identified in Texas five to seven years ago, said Trent Bishop, sales manager with Mission-based Lone Star Citrus Growers.
So far, growers have managed to dance around HLB’s most serious effects, Bishop said.
“It has not affected us the way it has affected our friends in Florida,” he said.
Bishop said he wasn’t sure why, “other than our winters tend to be a little colder, our summers tend to be a little hotter. We have a little different root stock. Somewhere along the way, it has not affected our crops the way it has affected Florida’s.”
Texas growers have an aggressive control program against the bacteria’s carrier, the Asian citrus psyllid, Bishop said.
As a result, groves across South Texas likely are healthier than they have been in years, said Dale Murden, president of the Mission-based Texas Citrus Mutual.
“Valley-wide, we do a good job of battling the psyllids, but we still find positive trees,” he said.
“Production hasn’t gone down here, fortunately. They are a little different here than in Florida with the heat, but, knock on wood, we’re holding our own.”