California orange growers say they see ominous news in a report out of Mexico last week that agriculture officials discovered 51 trees infected with the feared citrus greening disease in the western Mexico coastal states of Nayarit and Jalisco.
The Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday that the discovery shows that the tree-killing disease is working its way toward California’s $1.6-billion citrus industry.
It has already ravaged the citrus industries in Florida, Brazil and other prime orange-growing regions and poses a major threat to California growers, according to agriculture officials.
What’s especially worrisome is that the infected trees were discovered by visual inspection and symptoms such as irregular blotching on leaves were obvious.
Citrus trees can be infected for several years before displaying symptoms. And that means citrus greening could be more widespread, said Jim Cranney, president of the California Citrus Quality Council in Auburn, told the newspaper.
"Having a discovery so far west and so close to California is very alarming," Cranney said. "This shows that the disease is spreading in Mexico and is getting closer to California."
The disease was already detected far to the east in the Yucatan, but these latest discoveries are only about 1,000 miles south of California, Cranney said.
California is already home to growing populations of the Asian citrus psyllid, a tiny aphid-like insect that is one of the two components that are destroying orchards in many of the world’s prime orange- and lemon-growing regions.
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