Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Georgia quarantine helps protect citrus crop

Georgia has been put under a federal quarantine to help prevent the spread of a devastating citrus disease.

The quarantine follows the discovery in Georgia of “citrus greening” (CG), a disease that causes citrus fruit to be bitter and unusable. The disease is also known as Huanglongbing or HLB and is caused by the bacterial pathogen Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus. The disease was found on a lemon tree in Savannah.

The quarantine means that nurseries in the state cannot ship citrus plants (or related host plants that may also carry the disease) to other states. The effect on the state’s nurseries would be minimal since few nurseries do this. Citrus plants include oranges, tangerines, grapefruits, lemons, limes, kumquats and calamondins. Two other plants occasionally offered for sale that could serve as hosts are orange jasmine (Murraya paniculata), a tender shrub with fragrant white flowers, and trifoliate orange (Poncirus trifoliata), a thorny and cold-hardy shrub with white flowers sometimes used as a barrier or as a novelty plant.

There are no growers in the state producing citrus fruits for sale. However, there are some citrus plants growing in gardens in the state, especially in southern and coastal Georgia.

“Although we are not a citrus producer, we do not want to inadvertently spread a disease that could cripple citrus producers in other states,” said Tommy Irvin, Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture. “Georgia residents should not carry citrus plants, other host plants or citrus fruit with them when they go to other states,” Irvin added.

Citrus greening was also found in Charleston, S.C., in March. The disease-causing bacteria are spread from plant to plant by a small insect called the Asian citrus psyllid, which has also been found in Georgia.

U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) will be doing some monitoring in the state to determine extent of the disease.

Georgia Front Page
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