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Citrus greening menace to trees


LEE FARNUM-BADLEY

Citrus greening menace to trees

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I MISS MY PAWPAW TREES and the consistently delicious fruit they gave – but can we imagine how we would manage without limes, oranges, grapefruit and tangerines . . . and maybe even Barbados Cherry?

The United States Department of Agriculture is reporting that “citrus greening is one of the most serious citrus plant diseases in the world”. It is also known as Huanglongbing (HLB) or yellow dragon disease. Once a tree is infected, there is no cure.

While the disease poses no threat to humans or animals, it has devastated millions of acres of citrus crops throughout the United States and abroad.

Citrus greening disease was first reported to have occurred in Asia during the late 1800s and the disease has already caused devastation in Asia, Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and Brazil.

Named for its green misshapen fruit, citrus greening is spread by a disease-infected insect, the Asian citrus psyllid, and has put the future of America’s citrus at risk. Infected trees produce fruits that are green, misshapen and bitter, unsuitable for sale as fresh fruit or for juice. Most infected trees die within a few years.

The Asian citrus psyllid, which spreads citrus greening, is no bigger than the head of a pin. The infected insect spreads the disease as it feeds on the leaves and stems of citrus trees. Once the Asian citrus psyllid picks up the disease, it carries it for the rest of its life. Citrus greening is then spread by moving infected plants and plant materials such as bud wood and even leaves.

The Ministry of Agriculture has released a statement admitting that the disease is already in Barbados, evidence of which is found at the ministry’s plant propagation unit, and that the only thing we can do to expunge the disease from the island is to destroy all existing citrus trees.

– LEE FARNUM-BADLEY

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