This winter, the Florida citrus industry is in real danger thanks to a disease-carrying insect called the Asian citrus psyllid. This tiny insect is spreading a disease called -greening,’ which continues to spread across Florida and threaten the state’s vital citrus industry, which generates approximately $9 billion dollars.
The disease, affecting lemons, limes, grapefruit, kumquat, and tangerine trees, is characterized by discoloration of the trees and fruit, with rotten seeds on the inside, makes the fruit completely inedible. The trees that produce the fruit typically succumb to the disease and die after a few years.
Florida isn’t the only state that is at risk for citrus greening. According to the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the disease has put citrus growers in Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Arizona, and California at risk.
The organization says that citrus growers outside the U.S. are also at risk, with tropical climates like Puerto Rico, Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands showing vulnerability. The disease has been around since the 1800s, first occurring in Asia, as the Asian citrus psyllid’s name would suggest.
Citrus greening is one of the most serious citrus plant diseases in the world. Parts of Asia, Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and Brazil have already seen devastation over hundreds of years. Now the U.S. is at risk, with the last five years being extremely difficult in the industry.
When you have citrus greening, you’ll notice lopsided or misshapen fruit, with the blossom remaining green while the rest of the fruit turns yellow. You’ll notice blotchy mottling on the leaves and asymmetric chlorosis patterns, and leaves that are almost totally yellowed. Your tree will show symptoms of zinc deficiency, but that is a side effect of the disease. Citrus greening won’t put you or your pets at risk, but your fruit trees won’t be edible and will likely die. Right now the focus is on prevention, which means keeping the disease in the Southeastern, Southern, and Southwestern United States. By not moving fruits across state lines, you can help keep these diseases at bay.
Not that this is much reassurance for folks living in Florida and other at-risk states. Thankfully, scientists and pest control experts are finding methods to keep these problems at bay, including special insecticide sprays for both in-season, when fruit is expected to mature and feed the masses, and during the dormant season.
There are insecticides and pesticides that are made for organic nurseries too, so these citrus plants can be protected as well, but it’s important to consult with a pest control expert who can advise you on the most appropriate preventative treatment plan.
Looking for Pest Control in Tampa? Suncoast Pest Control offers a number of pest control programs, including Tampa Bay Exterminator services and St. Petersburg Roach Control.