Politicians and Citrus Experts Join Forces to Fight Citrus Greening in Valley

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012 - 10:14am

SAN JUAN - When it comes to citrus greening the question has always been when? Citrus expert's have always known it would come to Texas eventually, and now that it is here, they are preparing to fight it full force.   

The Texas Department of Agriculture knew it was only a matter of time for citrus greening to hit South Texas. And now with nine trees confirmed to have the disease, the next question is how to avoid it wiping out the $150 million economic industry. The first step and message is letting people know they are safe.

"This citrus greening disease is not something that affects food quality or food safety," said Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples.

This means citrus fruits are safe to eat, but the trees are in danger. The deadly disease will kill any tree it infects. So for Hidalgo County, which provides 70% of the entire states citrus, a spread of citrus greening could mean an unpleasant future.

"The immediate impact on people's jobs, the quality of the fruit, or the amount of fruit we ship, there is not going to be an impact, but long term it will be a significant issue for the industry, that's why it's being address by the Commissioner today and the Senator," said Paul Heller, Rio Queen Citrus Production Manager.

Citrus experts and state officials are joining forces to stop the spread. But to do so requires money. That's why Senator Eddie Lucio Jr. is determined to persuade Texas Legislature to go into an emergency session.

"I will be going back to my office, drafting a letter to the governor and lieutenant governor and of course letting the speaker know, because he is part of the team at the legislative level, that we really need their help with this one, this is a major industry," said State Senator Eddie Lucio, Texas Senate.

The first plan of action is to take care of the infected trees.

 The owner of these nine infected trees has agreed to destroy them. What they are going to do is re-spray the trees, cut them down and then destroy the roots.

The next step is dealing with the phyillds, the little bugs that transmit the deadly disease.

"Getting rid of them entirely and eradicating them would be a big challenge, but what we can do is certainly reduce dramatically phyilld population by spraying and following our recommendation," said Dr. Mamoudou Setamou.

All citrus tree owners, commercial and residential, need to spray their trees. If you are concerned that your trees may be infected you can visit the citrus greening website at www.texascitrusgreening.org

If you want to send in leaf sample to be tested for free, call the Texas Agrilife Center in Weslaco or mailing directions.

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