The Asiatic A strain of citrus canker was recently found in the Upper Gulf Coast area of Texas, posing a significant threat to the state’s commercial citrus production.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Texas Department of Agriculture and the Texas A&M University-Kingsville Citrus Center are collaborating on surveys to detect the disease. They are also removing and properly disposing of infected trees, and leading public outreach efforts to prevent further spread of the disease.
The agriculture departments and university hope to prevent a situation similar to what happened in Florida. The Sunshine State invested more than a billion dollars to eradicate the disease, with limited success.
“Because citrus canker was successfully eradicated over 70 years ago, it is hoped that present efforts to detect and eradicate the disease in Texas again will be successful before it can spread to the Lower Rio Grande Valley,” said Madhurababu Kunta, a plant pathologist with Texas A&M University-Kingsville Citrus Center. “The close cooperation between the federal and state regulatory agencies, the university’s scientists, and the citrus growers organization have resulted in significant progress in attempting eradication.”
Texas’ commercial citrus industry is contained entirely in the Lower Rio Grande Valley across 28,000 acres, of which 70% is grapefruit and 30% is sweet orange. Grapefruit is especially susceptible to strain A, which causes blemishes to the fruit and makes it unmarketable. The Texas industry is valued at more than $200 million.
Citrus canker was first reported in South Texas during the early 1900s and was successfully eradicated 70 years ago; it was last spotted in two Corpus Christi trees in 1943. In 2016, however, the USDA confirmed the presence of the Asiatic A strain on two sour orange trees in Houston.
Earlier this year, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher suggested ways to prepare for canker season.
Source: American Phytopathological Society
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