Highly contagious citrus disease confirmed in Alabama

Citrus Greening Diseases Threatens Florida's Orange Industry
[Photo Credit: Joe Raedle | Getty Images]

Citrus Greening, also known as Huanglongbing (HLB), is considered to be the most destructive disease of citrus, and state and federal officials have confirmed the disease is present in Alabama for the first time.

According to a release from the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI) the disease, which is caused by the bacterial pathogen Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus, was found in leaf and insect samples at a home on Dauphin Island despite biannual surveys for the pathogen by the ADAI.

Citrus greening reduces the quantity and quality of citrus fruits, eventually rendering infected trees useless. In neighbor-state Florida, citrus greening has been devastating to crops, as harvest of oranges fell from 242 million boxes in 2005 to 104.6 million boxes in 2014. The widespread of the disease was due to the fact that there is no cure. Infected trees are destroyed to keep it from spreading.

The ADAI, along with the USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Customs and Border Protection (CBP), will be conducting a delimiting survey to determine the extent that the pathogen may have spread. If the disease is limited to only a few trees, steps will be taken to eradicate the disease.

Officials have begun the process to halt the movement of citrus plants from the area. With the confirmation of citrus greening in Dauphin Island, federal plant officials will seek to establish a citrus greening quarantine in Mobile County.

Alabama agriculture officials have also indicated the state intends to take action to establish a parallel quarantine. The dual action makes it possible for federal regulators to hold the quarantine for CG only for those counties in Alabama in which the disease is present.