The citrus viral disease leprosis, found briefly in Florida in the 1960s, is now in South America, Central America and Mexico. Ron Brlansky, University of Florida professor emeritus, provided an update on the disease at a March OJ Break in Lake Alfred.
“It (leprosis) causes fruit spotting, leaf spots, leaf drop, fruit drop and even some major twig dieback of trees,” Brlansky says.
The researcher says after the disease was spotted in Florida approximately 50 years ago, “it vanished; we think from natural occurrences, maybe a freeze.” Controlling the mites that vector leprosis with sulfur also likely contributed to the disease’s disappearance, he adds.
“It has steadily over the years been working its way up from South America, to Central America, and it’s in Mexico now,” Brlansky reports.
If leprosis turns up in Florida again, it can be controlled “by controlling mites.” Another control measure would be defoliating infected trees to “take a lot of the infection off the trees,” Brlansky says.
“Diagnosis is primary too, because sometimes the symptoms can be confused with other things,” Brlansky says. “We’ve got good diagnostic tools now, and some new tools just developed by a group I’ve been working with at USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) through a California Citrus Research Board grant.”
Brlansky also provided an update on citrus blight at the OJ Break hosted by multi-county citrus Extension agent Chris Oswalt. Numerous growers attended the presentation.
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