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Yellow Dragon Disease enters Trinidad and Tobago's citrus farms

Staff Writer | June 13, 2017
A citrus disease that has killed and destroyed more than 100 million trees worldwide and cost grow­ers billions of dollars has been detected in Trinidad and Tobago.
Yellow Dragon Disease
Bacterial disease   The Asian citrus psyllid
The bacterial disease — which attacks orange, grapefruit, portugal, lime, lemon, mandarin, tangerine, tangelo, ortanique, and other citrus trees—is called Hua ­ glongbing (Yellow Dragon Dis­ease), HLB or Citrus Greening.

It is carried by the Asian citrus psyllid and attacks a tree’s vas­cular system, producing bitter fruit and eventually killing the tree. Sap-sucking pysllids that feed on an infected tree become carriers of the disease.

Huanglongbing has been identi­fied in more than 40 countries in­cluding Brazil, Florida’s main rival in the global orange juice business. It was so damaging to Florida’s citrus crops that in 2003, the US classified the bacteria that caused it as a bioterror tool.

In the Caribbean, Jamaica and Belize have been severely affected by the disease. The Food and Agri­culture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) projects were imple­mented in both countries in 2011- 2013 and have had some success in salvaging trees and increasing yields.

Citrus farmers who cannot get plants to buy want to know if this is the reason why The Ministry of Agriculture has stopped the sales of citrus plants to farmers at its three nurseries at Marper Farms, Plum Road, Manzanilla; La Reunion Plant Propagation Station, Carapo; and the St Augustine Nursery, Farm Road, St Joseph from the beginning of the month.

President of the Cooperative Cit­rus Growers Association (CCGA) of T&T Felix Clarke said Yellow Dragon Disease can wipe out T&T’s citrus industry in a short period of time if measures are not put in place to manage the disease.