Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Travel Time and the Greening Monster

I did a lecture this past weekend out at Magnolia Gardens on growing Citrus in the Lowcountry. I love going out there, it is always so pretty and quiet. Just wandering around enjoying the beauty of nature. As I was wandering around, I noticed LOTS of foreign license plates. Any plate that is not South Carolina, is foreign in case you were wondering. Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia and Florida just to name a few.
The one from Florida raised a little alarm in my head. I am sure this one was probably safe, but it really started me thinking. I get questions all the time, how bad is this Greening Disease really and how did it end up in Charleston, South Carolina?
Thankfully, I have not heard of any more of the disease being found here. Let's keep it that way!
The way it got here was because somebody probably brought an infected plant here and decided to grow it. There is one other possibility, an infected Pysllid could have been hitching a ride on a vehicle. I do not know how long they can live at 70 miles per hour or if they travel well without getting car sick, but anything is possible.
The disease was first discovered in Florida in 2005 and has been wrecking havoc on the Citrus industry down there ever since.
Here are some of the main things to remember about Citrus Greening:
Citrus greening is one of the most serious citrus plant diseases in the world.
It is a bacterial plant disease that destroys citrus trees.
It is spread by infected Asian citrus psyllids, tiny insects no bigger than gnats that feed on citrus leaves and stems.

This is what the little guy looks like.

There is no cure for this deadly plant disease.
Some of the symptoms that you can look for are:
Blotchy mottling of leaves and leaf yellowing that may appear on a single shoot or branch.

Photo courtesy of University of Florida

Small, lopsided, and bitter fruit that remains green even when ripe.

This is a "ripe" Orange, notice the peel still green and the aborted seeds.

Twig dieback.
Stunted, sparsely foliated trees that may bloom off season.
Unfortunately, Citrus plants infected by the citrus greening bacteria may not show symptoms for years and these symptoms can resemble those of other diseases and nutritional deficiencies.
Until a treatment or cure is found, stopping the spread of this deadly disease by halting the movement of plants is our only hope.
It is amazing how many people DO NOT KNOW that it is illegal to bring Citrus trees out of the state of Florida or Georgia. It is also illegal to move Citrus trees out of Charleston or Beaufort Counties in South Carolina. Seeing the license plate from Florida is why I had the little alarm go off in my head, I had images of a well meaning person bringing a Citrus tree up as a gift. That could very easily start it all over again!
I don't know of any other way to stop this other than to keep pounding away at this information. Pass it around, tell everybody and anybody you know about it.
Happy Growing!

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