Citrus Apocalypse! Beware the Yellow Dragon.

orangeshlbA world without fresh squeezed orange juice, lemonade, grapefruit for breakfast, or any other of the wonderful ways we use citruses is a daunting possibility due to a fast spreading disease spread by an invasive pest sweeping across the globe and which has now found us here in Houston and surrounding communities.

Citrus greening is one of the most serious citrus plant diseases in the world. It is also known as Huanglongbing (HLB) or yellow dragon disease.The disease has been positively identified in Harris County as reported by Bryan Black, Director of Communications, Texas Department of Agriculture, via email on July 18th 2014.

“As a result of a positive detection of citrus greening from citrus nursery stock at a retail location near Webster, Texas, the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) has expanded Texas’ citrus greening quarantine effective July 15, 2014, to include Harris County,” Black said via email. “The disease poses absolutely no threat to human health and fruit from infected trees are safe to eat. The disease makes citrus fruit misshapen, irregularly colored, and bitter. The main effect is that most infected trees die within a few years. Residents in Harris County should continue to enjoy citrus as part of a healthy diet.”

Enjoy we should, with no known cure for citrus greening a citrus-less world may be our future. Due to the seriousness of this disease it is incumbent upon on us  to be vigilant in identifying, and destroying, sick citrus trees. For anyone in the market shopping for citruses, buy from a reputable source and be aware of the symptoms of citrus greening. You may also find the visual guide located here helpful. Also note, nurseries and garden centers in the quarantined areas should have their citrus trees labeled by the TDA certifying they have been inspected and cleared for sale otherwise steer clear.

Our Cypress store is located in Harris County and has already been cleared by the TDA to sell the citrus trees we have in stock. The citrus trees will have the TDA labels clearing their sell and warning not to move them outside of Harris County due to the county wide quarantine. Our Katy store is in Fort Bend county and thus clear and may be purchased and moved freely (latest update on the spread of citrus greening found here).

This disease has been introduced to our area by a retail nursery chain purchasing from growers in south Texas, areas of which have been quarantined since 2012, but will be transmitted by the Asian citrus psyllid. For residential growers with citrus trees it is imperative to not only learn the signs of citrus greening, but to learn to identify the pest that transmits it. The link here is a great source of information. You may also view the the video below for a quick description of the little buggers.

To save our citruses check citrus plants regularly for signs of disease and pests. Report suspicious symptoms through the Save Our Citrus Website or you may also call the Texas Department of Agriculture toll free at 1-800- TELL-TDA (1-800-835-5832). Beware the yellow dragon!

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