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Quick identification needed to save Florida's citrus industry from devastating disease

The recent discovery of citrus greening (huanglongbing) in samples collected from trees in South Florida poses a definite threat to Florida's $9 billion commercial citrus industry. Proper identification and eradication methods are needed to reduce the amount of crop loss caused by this disease, say plant pathologists with The American Phytopathological Society (APS). Citrus greening is a bacterial disease that affects the phloem system of citrus plants causing the infected trees to yellow, decline, and possibly die within a few years. The bacterium is spread by an insect, the citrus psyllid.

"Although there is no cure for citrus greening, it is vital that plant pathologists work with growers to quickly identify the disease and its insect hosts," said Ronald Brlansky, professor and plant pathologist with the University of Florida, CREC, Lake Alfred, FL. "Finding the extent of the disease and the removal of infected trees will reduce the damage done by this disease," he said. Plant pathologists have been surveying and testing for citrus greening since the psyllids were found in the U.S. in the late 1990s.

Citrus greening infects all types of citrus species. 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 has seriously affected citrus production in Asia, Africa, the Indian subcontinent and the Arabian Peninsula, and was recently discovered in Brazil.


Source:American Phytopathological Society

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