Homeowners asked to help with citrus greening disease

Public meeting on vector control slated March 7

SAN JUAN –  A meeting to discuss the threat of citrus greening disease to a way of life in South Texas will be held from 6-8 p.m. March 7 at the San Juan Memorial Library, 1010 S. Standard St.in San Juan, according to Barbara Storz, a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service horticulturist in Edinburg.

Citrus trees infected with greening disease are destroyed south of San Juan. (AgriLife Communications photo by Rod Santa Ana)

Citrus trees infected with greening disease are destroyed south of San Juan. (AgriLife Communications photo by Rod Santa Ana)

“Citrus is deeply rooted in the heritage and culture of the Lower Rio Grande Valley, and this disease, citrus greening, is threatening the very existence of citrus trees here in South Texas,” she said. “It’s going to take all of us, especially people who have citrus trees on their private property, to preserve the citrus industry, which is closely tied to the economic stability of the Valley.”

Greening, or Huanglongbing, is a citrus plant disease that has no cure and eventually kills trees. However, fruit from infected trees pose no health problems to humans, Storz said. The disease affects many citrus-production regions of the world and was first discovered in South Texas in 2012 near San Juan.

“Despite an intensive survey, the only cases of trees actually infected with citrus greening have been found in the San Juan area,” she said. “All those trees have been destroyed. However, 21 citrus psyllids, the insects that transmit the disease from tree to tree, have tested positive for citrus greening. These ‘hot’ psyllids have been found from one end of the Valley to the other, from Brownsville to Mission. What we don’t know is where these psyllids are picking up the disease.”

The source of the disease could be anywhere, Storz said, including citrus trees in Mexico, nursery plants or possibly from an infected and as yet undetected dooryard tree on residential or private property.

“There are lots of efforts to manage this pest in commercial orchards, but we need homeowners involved,” she said. “Psyllids are especially attracted to flushes, or new tree growth. Since trees are flushing right now, this is a perfect time for homeowners to treat their trees. Which insecticides to use and how to use them will be discussed at the March 7 meeting.”

Storz said a soil-drench insecticide is among the best options for homeowners.

“This product is readily available at nurseries and other retail outlets. It’s watered into the soil along the drip line of a tree. The tree takes it up into its system and won’t harm the fruit, but it kills psyllids. It lasts several weeks and needs to be applied now as new flushes are coming out.”

Sponsors of the meeting include AgriLife Extension, the City of San Juan, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the Texas Department of Agriculture, Texas A&M University-Kingsville and Texas Citrus Mutual.

More information about psyllid control can be found online at http://hidalgo.agrilife.org. Click on the Gardening tab. For more information on the meeting or citrus greening call 956-383-1026.

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