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Valley Citrus Grower Concerned About New Canker Warning

2 years 9 months 4 weeks ago Wednesday, November 29 2017 Nov 29, 2017 November 29, 2017 5:07 PM November 29, 2017 in News

MISSION – A Mission citrus grower is concerned about a new warning for the Rio Grande Valley about citrus canker. He said a spread of the disease would be a nightmare for his industry.

Eliezer Louzada said he has seen reports of the disease dropping production of citrus in Florida this season. He said he’s worried it could do the same to his investment here.

In 2014, Louzada bought a citrus grove in Mission. Since then, he's found out selling the citrus is a good business to be in.

"It has been very profitable. It's so profitable that I'm buying other land this coming year," he told CHANNEL 5 NEWS.

Louzada said he is always worried about citrus canker, a bacteria that spreads into farmland causing blemishes on grapefruits, limes and oranges. It makes the fruit unmarketable.

He said if citrus canker begins spreading in the Valley, he'll have to pay extra to treat his citrus.

"It's going to increase tremendously our growth care because we are going to need to apply much more fungicide. Usually, we do, we use fungicides, but we're going to use much more," he explained.

Louzada said he is more concerned about the idea of citrus canker destroying his trees before they can be treated.

"If I find it in my grove, first of all, we are going to be quarantined. This means that fruits cannot come out of my grove basically anywhere. So this is going to create a problem for me. And yeah, it's going to be a loss," he notes.

Olufemi Alabi, a plant pathologist at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, said his organization is issuing the new warning because of two active canker quarantines, one in Richmond/Houston and one in Rancho Viejo. He said it can spread after hurricane season and due to the heavy travel this holiday season.

"Canker can spread by contact. It can also spread by wind-driven bacteria cells," explained Alabi. "After Hurricane Harvey, we are really concerned that some of the winds from that hurricane have spread canker."

Alabi urges citrus growers who see signs of canker on one of their trees to report it to his group immediately. He said a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension specialist will run a sample of what is reported through tests to confirm it.

If it tests positive, the owner of the tree must act immediately.

"Right now, the policy is to encourage the owner of that property to remove and destroy those trees," he added.

According to Alabi, the canker bacteria can still be around an infected area after the tree is destroyed.  He said canker spreads quickly and a quarantine is almost always ordered for an infected area. The Texas Department of Agriculture and USDA are the ones that make the decision to quarantine an area after investigating it.

If you see the canker's blemishes on a citrus tree's branches or leaves of fruits, there are numbers to call right away.

Experts at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension recommend calling them at 956-968-5581. Also, the location of citrus canker can be reported to the Texas Department of Agriculture at 1-800-835-5832.

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