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Growers and homeowners can help detect citrus disease


Plant pathologists from The American Phytopathological Society (APS) report that citrus greening is spreading faster than expected and encourage growers and homeowners to aid in the detection process by alerting the appropriate agricultural officials if they suspect they have infected trees. Citrus greening, also known as huanglongbing, was recently discovered in samples collected from trees in South Florida.

Although citrus greening is not expected to have a major impact on the supply of citrus fruit this year, it is important that the spread of this disease be carefully monitored and reported, say plant pathologists from APS.

To date, citrus greening has only been detected in Florida, but residents of all citrus growing areas in the U.S. are urged to report possible infections. Residents in Florida should call the Florida Department of Agriculture’s toll-free helpline at 1.800.282.5153. Other states should contact their local state department of agriculture for information. Because citrus greening is not limited to just one outbreak, plant pathologists from APS report that eradication is probably not feasible at this point.

Citrus greening is a bacterial disease that can infect all types of citrus species. The bacterium that causes this disease is spread by an insect, the citrus psyllid.

Citrus greening affects the nutrient conducting system of citrus plants causing the infected trees to yellow, decline, and possibly die within a few years. The name "huanglongbing" means "yellow dragon" which is descriptive of the yellow sectors of infected trees. The symptoms of citrus greening usually include a blotchy mottle and leaf yellowing that spreads throughout the tree with lopsided fruit that fail to color properly.

Citrus greening is often hard to detect because its symptoms are almost identical to those that occur from nutritional deficiencies. Additionally, trees infected with citrus greening will usually not express any symptoms until three to eight months after infection.

Amy Steigman | EurekAlert!
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