Courtesy Agricultural Research ServiceCitrus greening, a bacterial disease of citrus, is harmless to humans or other animals. It has caused more than $3.6 billion in losses to the Florida citrus industry.Citrus greening is spreading in Texas, but it shouldn’t affect the 2014 orange and grapefruit crops.
Greening, which has devastated Florida citrus production, has spread in three Texas counties where oranges and red grapefruit are grown, said Ray Prewett, president of Mission-based Texas Citrus Mutual.
Hidalgo, Cameron and Harris counties all are under quarantine because of greening, also known as huanglongbing or HLB.
As of Aug. 22, there were 430 infected trees in commercial groves — including more than 50 in one block alone — and 207 infected trees in residential areas.
But despite the spread, Prewett said greening hasn’t been in Texas long enough to likely affect fruit this season.
“We don’t expect it to have an impact on quality or volumes,” he said.
So far this season, growers haven’t reported fruit drop or unusually small fruit — two signs of greening, Prewett said.
In fact, thanks to an excellent bloom this year, growers expect to ship more oranges and grapefruit to the fresh market this season, he said.
Orange harvest should begin in late September and grapefruit harvest in mid-October, with both fruits likely to start shipping in volume in late October or early November.
The presence of greening also isn’t expected to limit shipments of Texas citrus to California, other U.S. states or foreign markets, Prewett said.
“Florida is shipping all over the world, and we should be able to do the same.”
As long as fruit is shipped without stems or leaves, it is not at risk for spreading greening, Prewett said.
To combat the spreading of greening in Texas, all growers are encouraged to spray for psyllids before harvest this year, Prewett said.
In addition, The Texas Department of Agriculture is requiring all citrus trees in a 10-county area to be produced in an enclosed certified structure, to help keep the disease from infecting nurseries.
Trees that have been infected with greening are removed, Prewett said.