2014-02-19 / News

Citrus disease Rio Grande Valley spreading in Texas

SAN ANTONIO (AP) A disease that has damaged citrus crops in Florida and elsewhere appears to be spreading in South Texas, prompting state agriculture officials to expand a quarantine, according to a newspaper report.

Citrus fruits turn green and their taste fouled by the disease known as citrus greening. The Texas Department of Agriculture last week quarantined a third area in the Rio Grande Valley after a sampling survey found more trees infected, the San Antonio Express

News reported Thursday.

``There's a lot of concern in the industry about where else we're going to find the disease,'' Texas Citrus Mutual President Ray Prewett said. ``We've been looking hard for it.''

Residents have been prohibited from moving citrus plants or plant materials outside the affected areas. Texas A&M University's AgriLife Extension Service has warned residents their trees may be infected, even if they're not showing signs.

Greening first appeared in Asia in the late 1800s and has decimated citrus crops in Asia, Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and Brazil. In the United States, the disease also has been found in Florida, California, Georgia, Louisiana and South Carolina.

Greening is caused by bacteria carried by the gnat-sized Asian citrus psyllid. The disease poses no threat to people.

Texas growers have been lucky compared with those in Florida, which has as many as 69 million infected trees, amounting to about 75 percent of its citrus crop. This year Florida is expected to have the smallest orange crop in 24 years.

The Sunshine State was unable to catch the disease before it spread. But other citrus states, including Texas, have tested for the disease and implemented programs to prevent its spread.

``So it's a good-news-badnews thing that we're finding these things,'' Prewett said.

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