First Citrus Canker Detection in Alabama

Ernie NeffDiseases

citrus canker
Citrus canker
(University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences photo)

Citrus canker has been detected in a residential area of Baldwin County, Alabama, which is bordered by Florida and the Gulf of Mexico. Federal and state plant health officials confirmed the identification of the disease from foliage and fruit samples collected by the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries’ (ADAI) routine citrus survey. 

This was the first detection of citrus canker in the state despite biannual surveys conducted by ADAI plant inspection staff.

A fruit infected with canker is safe to eat but has reduced marketability as fresh fruit. The bacteria remain viable on plant surfaces for several months. Canker lesions expel bacterial cells, which can be dispersed by wind and rain. Infection may spread further by heavy rain and wind events such as hurricanes.

People can move the disease by moving contaminated equipment and tools, tree clippings, untreated infected fruit and infected plants. The disease thrives in areas with high rainfall and high temperatures. Citrus species vary in their susceptibility to citrus canker, with grapefruit and limes being the most susceptible.

ADAI and U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service officials have devised a plan of action. Together they will be conducting a delimiting survey to determine the extent that the pathogen may have spread. 

Surveillance teams will survey all citrus within a 5-mile radius around each positive site, collect foliage and fruit samples for testing and gather data on the history of symptomatic plants. The delimiting survey will begin in July and will last several weeks. Outreach and education to nurseries, plant dealers and homeowners will be conducted concerning citrus canker.  

More information about citrus canker or the delimiting survey may be obtained from ADAI’s Christel Stewart at 334-240-7226.

Source: Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries

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