Citrus greening is a bacterial disease that attacks the vascular system of plants. Once infected, there is no cure for a tree with citrus greening disease. In areas of the world where citrus greening is endemic, citrus trees decline and die within a few years. Trees known to host the disease include, grapefruit, orange, lemon, tangerine and orange jasmine.

Primarily, an insect called the citrus psyllid transmits the bacterium that causes citrus greening. In June 1998, a psyllid that carried the strain of citrus greening was found for the first time in the United States in Florida. Citrus greening is now confirmed in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina and Texas.

“The state citrus industry has been closely focused on preparing for the day we knew was coming when we’d receive confirmation that we have citrus greening,” Texas Citrus Mutual President Ray Prewett said. “We have already begun implementing response plans. For the past two years, growers have been actively participating in a coordinated area-wide psyllid control effort, and as a result, the current psyllid population levels in commercial groves are the lowest they have been in many years.”

Symptoms of citrus greening disease are similar to plants with severe growth deficiencies, including yellow shoots, twig dieback, tree decline and reduced fruit size and quality. Older leaves develop a characteristic mottling, or patches of discoloration. The fruit drops off before ripening and has poor color.

Texas is the second-leading state in grapefruit production and ranks third in orange production with about 28,295 acres in commercial citrus production in the Rio Grande Valley. The primary citrus counties are Cameron, Hidalgo and Willacy.

“With a statewide economic impact of more than $140 million, our citrus industry is a vital part of the Texas agricultural economy and the economy of the Rio Grande Valley,” Commissioner Staples said. “TDA will aggressively work with USDA and our industry partners to protect our vital citrus industry.”

“The Texas citrus industry is encouraged by the timely and committed response from our state and federal agency partners,” Prewett said. “Together, we are devoting significant resources to contain this challenging citrus tree disease. Meanwhile, the state citrus industry remains open for business, with excellent fruit readily available.”

For more information on citrus greening or to report a tree that may have the disease, go to saveourcitrus.org.