The Florida citrus industry has been under attack by one of the most serious bacterial infections in the world – citrus greening disease. Homeowners with citrus trees in their landscape should be aware that their trees are also at risk. The disease is spread by tiny insects called psyllids. The disease is not contagious to people or pets.

About the Disease

The systemic disease affects all parts of a tree, from fruits to roots. It impacts all citrus varieties encompassing tangerines, kumquats, lemons and limes, oranges, and grapefruits. Some ornamental plants and bushes are also at risk, representing about 2,070 species. It includes trees, woody shrubs such as boxwood and orange jasmine, and a few types of herbaceous perennials.

Citrus greening disease occurs around the world. It’s particularly prevalent in locations such as South Florida that has a warm, subtropical climate.

Signs and Symptoms

You may see psyllids, evidence of their waxy droppings, or eggs. Fruits may appear lopsided, be hard, have a bitter flavor, and contain dark seeds. Affected fruits may remain green, even after ripening and leaves display blotchy spots. Other indications include:

  • Yellow shoots
  • Twig dieback
  • Stunted or sparse foliage
  • Trees and bushes may bloom out of season

There is No Cure

If you suspect your trees or bushes are infected, the best solution is to call a specialist. A landscaping expert will be ablet o make a definitive diagnosis. There is no cure for citrus greening disease. Once a planting has been infected, it will continue to deteriorate. It’s vitally important to remove any plantings that are affected.

The Impact

The bacterial disease has hit the Florida orange industry particularly hard, leading to record high prices on fresh citrus fruit and juices. The disease is a major factor in reduced production, but other elements are also in play. They include hurricanes, trees that aren’t adaptable to adverse weather conditions, and other diseases. The same factors that are influencing commercial growers can affect homeowners that just want to grow a citrus tree or two in their back yard.

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