Weapon to stop citrus greening disease


POSTED: Wednesday, August 20, 2014 - 3:49pm

UPDATED: Friday, August 22, 2014 - 7:06am

Experts have a new weapon in the fight against citrus greening. 

Citrus greening is a disease that hits citrus trees. It also threatens the $150 million economic impact of the South Texas citrus industry. 

"Once a tree is infected, there's no cure and those trees will eventually die," President of the Texas Citrus Mutual Ray Prewett said. 

The citrus psyllid is the insect that spreads citrus greening disease. What they're trying to do to is combat the growth of the insect with the tamarixic wasp. This insect kills the citrus psyllid. And officials have produced 1.2 million of them.

"It's only purpose is to search and destroy the psyllid," the United States Department of Agriculture entomologist Dan Flores said. "These beneficial insects are harmless to humans and pets."

More than a million of the wasps have been released in the Rio Grande Valley. They can't kill adult psyllids; only the immature ones. 

September is when we see a spike in psyllid numbers because of increased rain. Experts are seeing results at the just the right time. But they warn the tamarixic wasp will not fix the problem. 

"We've actually seen psyllid populations decline by 50 percent," Flores said. "Biological control is not a cure for the bacteria. It's simply to reduce the populations in the environment just long enough until a cure can be found.

More than 600 trees in the Valley have been infected, and the majority of them have been cut down. Florida has the country's largest citrus industry. More than 70 percent of its trees are affected.  

To find the symptoms of citrus greening disease, or request a free inspection, call 956-580-1917 or visit citrusalert.com

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