Texas wants everyone to get into the fight against greening

11/13/2013 04:03:00 PM
Jim Offner

In Texas, the fight against citrus greening starts at home.

Indeed, the Rio Grande Valley’s citrus industry is focused on raising awareness among area residents about the threat citrus greening poses.

So serious is the danger that the board of Mission-based TexaSweet Citrus Marketing Inc. — which was launched to promote sales of citrus products from the area — voted in October to implement a communication plan that educates homeowners and small growers about greening and how to deal with it, said Ray Prewett, president of Mission-based Texas Citrus Mutual.

“Greening is our most serious disease problem, and fighting it has to include dooryard trees,” Prewett said.

TexaSweet board members were unanimous in backing the organization’s change in focus, said Eleisha Ensign, executive director.

The change in emphasis followed months of discussions, Ensign said.

“I believe that the TexaSweet board felt that citrus greening disease is an extreme threat to the industry and that TexaSweet’s promotional funding would be better placed trying to save our industry,” she said.

The ubiquity of citrus trees on private residential lots qualifies greening as a community concern, Ensign said.

“There are a great many dooryard citrus trees, and we need every resident in the Rio Grande Valley to be aware of this situation and understand what they can do to help the industry fight this battle,” Ensign said.

It’s one battlefront in the fight against greening.

The Texas Department of Agriculture is involved too, and recently enacted a second quarantine in the valley after greening was found in a residential grapefruit tree in Mission.

The restrictions encompass a 5-mile radius of the positive find and restrict the movement of citrus nursery trees, said Larry Hawkins, Sacramento, Calif.-based spokesman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has been working with Texas agriculture officials to deal with the problem.

Growers within the zone who want to harvest fruit for transport to an outside packinghouse must first treat trees with an approved insecticide and then harvest within seven days of application.

Harvest crews also must work to remove leaves, stems and other plant material before moving the bins outside the quarantine area.

The Mission discovery was the second time a greening-infected tree had been found in the region. In January 2012, the state and U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed greening in a commercial orange grove near San Juan.

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