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HLB bacteria threatens 136,000 hectares in Argentina

Staff Writer | October 27, 2016
HLB (Huanglongbing), a bacteria that attacks citrus crops and destroys plantations, has been present in Argentina since 2012 and potentially threatens 136,000 hectares of crops in the Northwestern and Northeastern regions of Argentina, and puts the regional economies at risk.
Bacteria   This disease could wipe out the citrus industry
Thus, different entities, coordinated by the Ministry of agricultural industry, are coordinating preventative measures against this disease that has no cure.

"This disease could wipe out the world's citrus industry. It is present on all continents, except Europe.

"Brazil is one of the countries affected by the HLB. It was discovered in that country in 2004 and since then, the country has had to eradicate 40 million trees", stated the technical manager of the Plant Health Association of the Argentine Northwest (Afinoa), Gloria Perez.

"HLB is causing havoc in the United States, especially in Florida; 50% of the planted surface has been lost since 2005. And it is out of control in Paraguay," said the specialist.

HLB, a disease of Asian origin which first appeared in China more than 100 years ago, is caused by a bacterium transmitted by a vector insect (Diaphorina citri) and it affects several species of plants of the citrus genus; including, lime, orange, and Mandarin.

Gloria Perez stated that, "In Argentina, HLB is present in Misiones, and in the North of Corrientes. The country has lost 230 trees to the HLB since 2012. We have to work to prevent this disease because we know this isn't over. The disease has a latency period that ranges from 6 months to 3 years," she added.

Since the disease has no cure, the only way to control it is through prevention, controlling the vector insect, eradicating the plants affected, and not moving plants without the necessary phytosanitary requirements.

Raul Quereilhac, the administrative manager of Afinoa, said that "this is a very important time of the year for the prevention campaigns, because its a moment where there is much informal movement of plants for household use, which can help spread the disease from one province to another."

She stressed that, "Argentina is the only country in the world that has had a national program to prevent HLB since 2009, and thanks to this program the country was able to detect its presence."

Perez said the United States invested between 25,000 and 30,000 million dollars a year and that Brazil invested 10,000 million in research to find a cure for HLB, which, he stated, "will be found through transgenic plants in some 10 to 15 years."

"This is going to lead to controversy, but we'll accept it or the citrus will disappear," he stated.

Citrus production in the NOA accounts for $1,100 million a year.