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Citrus Disease Confirmed in South Texas

David Silverman, Getty Images

A citrus tree disease responsible for destroying citrus trees in Florida, Africa, Asia, and South America has been found in Texas.

The Texas Department of Agriculture and the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service have confirmed their finding of citrus greening, a destructive bacterial citrus disease.

The disease poses no threat to human health and does not damage the fruit, but does do severe damage to the trees.

A section of Hidalgo County has been put under temporary emergency quarantine, meaning that any plants that can host the disease and are within a five-mile radius of the infected tree cannot be moved from the quarantine area. Citrus fruit taken from trees in the area cannot contain any leaves or debris before being taken from the quarantine area as well.

“Recognizing other states and countries have dealt with citrus greening for years, we have trained and prepared for this possibility,” Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples said. “It is important to remember the oranges and grapefruit produced in Texas are safe to eat.”

Citrus greening attacks the vascular system of plants, and there is no cure for a tree once infected. The bacterium is transmitted by an insect called the citrus psyllid. Other states with confirmed citrus greening are Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and South Carolina.

Symptoms of the disease include yellow shoots, twig dieback, tree decline, and reduced fruit size and quality. Older leaves become mottled or discolored, and the fruit drops off before ripening.

Citrus greening was first found in a tree in a commercial orange grove in San Juan. Texas is the second-leading grapefruit producing state in the country, and third in orange production.

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