Citrus Experts Continue To Monitor Deadly Tree Killing Disease


POSTED: Friday, November 16, 2012 - 5:45pm

UPDATED: Monday, November 19, 2012 - 10:14am

WESLACO - From Mission to Brownsville, two men from the Citrus Center are out searching for the bug that can carry the citrus greening disease.

"We're the immediate eyes, we are there everyday, ya know checking out what's in the field," said Mike Backus, Citrus Center Research Technician.

They're hard to spot, but the little vectors called psyllids, can carry the deadly citrus greening disease which kills citrus trees.

 "We have seen a bit of an increase in the psyllid population in the commercial groves this year," said Ray Prewett, Texas Citrus Mutual President.

With over 9,000 samples of psyllids taken since the first citrus greening discovery in January, there have been only 14 sites across the Valley with positive disease carrying psyllids.

"But research has shown that just because it tests positive in the lab, doesn't mean it can actually spread the disease. Only a small percent do. But a small percent of millions of psyllids, is a lot of psyllids still," said Dr. John da Graca, Citrus Center Director.

In the entire Rio Grande Valley, there have only been 78 trees infected with the disease. Seventy-five of those trees were found in two orchards in San Juan. The other three, came from residential owner property, meaning a singular tree in a person's front or backyard.

But all these positive trees have been destroyed.

"Growers have been very cooperative on that. We are very pleased to know that up until this point, all of the infected trees have been taken out," said Prewett.  

Citrus growers hope these efforts will save the $150 million dollar industry that is Texas Citrus.

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