March 28 grower meeting to focus on citrus greening disease

WESLACO  —  The 2012 Texas Citrus Showcase and Mid-Year Meeting will be held at 8:30 a.m. March 28 at the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center, 2401 E. Highway 83 in Weslaco.

Registration and breakfast begin at 7:30 a.m. The program concludes at 1:30 p.m.

“With the confirmation of citrus greening in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, we face one of the biggest challenges that our industry has encountered,” said Ray Prewett, president of Texas Citrus Mutual in Mission.

This largest citrus grower meeting of the year will focus on greening, Prewett said. The bacterial disease, spread by Asian citrus psyllids, was confirmed in mid-January in an orchard in San Juan, near McAllen. There is no cure for citrus greening, a disease that clogs up the vascular, or phloem, system of trees.

“This is always an important meeting for growers,” Prewett said, “but this meeting comes at a very critical time. It takes on even more importance this year because of citrus greening.”

Despite the severity of the disease, there is room for optimism, he said.

“We’re cautiously optimistic that the detection of this disease is relatively isolated and confined to a small area,” Prewett said. “We can’t say this for sure; only time will tell. But we look forward to taking the opportunity to meet with our citrus growers to discuss the situation and strategy, and to answer grower questions.”

Among the speakers will be experts from Florida and South Texas, he said.

“We’ll have a citrus greening management strategy panel that will discuss topics that include perspective and outlook, aggressive psyllid control, inoculum management, a citrus nursery update and greening’s interaction with phytophthora.”

Representatives from three state and federal agencies, including Barbara Storz, Texas AgriLife Extension Service; Stuart Kuehn, U.S. Department of Agriculture; and Randy Rivera, Texas Department of Agriculture, will also provide reports.

The afternoon session will include information on rust mite and phytophthora control, sweet orange scab, disease resistant trees, and challenges with the Mexican fruit fly program.

The registration fee for members of Texas Citrus Mutual is $40; non-member registration is $60.

For more information, contact Texas Citrus Mutual at 956-584-1772.

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