As originally published by Texas Border Business newsprint edition January 2018
The Rio Grande Valley is well known for their citrus. Grapefruit, oranges, lemons and limes are gladly awaited every year, locally grown and consumed in our region, and enjoyed by many more than just locals. But our South Texas citrus are at risk of disease and pests.
“I have been working with the South Texas Citrus Alert for two years, but the issue with the citrus greening has been going on for about five years now.” Lorenzo Garza, community outreach specialist for South Texas Citrus Alert, said. “We have another disease called Citrus Canker which has been affecting the Cameron county area for about two years now, and the Mexican fruit fly issue which has been here seasonally.”
The Citrus Greening Disease, or Huanglongbing (HLB), is the most destructive citrus disease. This disease poses no threat to humans or animals, but can destroy all types of citrus trees because it has no cure once a tree is infected. This disease is a serious threat to our South Texas Citrus Industry. Other diseases like the Citrus Canker and pest like the Mexican Fruit Fly can also affect the industry.
“It’s really important to check your citrus trees, there are pests and diseases that are affecting the citrus industry, one of the main things that we are trying to protect is what we are known for in the Valley which is our grapefruit, oranges, limes and lemons,” said Garza.
The Texas Citrus Pest and Disease Management Corporation (TCPDMC), also referred to as South Texas Citrus Alert, is a Texas nonprofit designated to plan, carry out, and operate suppression programs to manage and control pests and diseases in citrus plants under the supervision of the Texas Department of Agriculture.
“What I do personally, is go out into the community, talk to business owners as well as residents from the Valley, ranging from Hidalgo County up to Willacy and down to Cameron county,” said Garza.
The South Texas Citrus Alert, aims to keep the community of South Texas informed and prepared to help save the citrus industry. It serves the counties of Hidalgo, Willacy and Cameron. Their mission is to help residents of the Valley to understand what is happening to the citrus, especially if they own a citrus tree.
“Giving individuals advice of what’s going on with the citrus industry, information as in how to protect their citrus tree if they have one,” Garza continued. “And we also protect, we go to houses to help protect their trees and give them informational packets on what pesticide to use, as well as advise on how to fertilize and maintain the tree’s health.”
Garza said that in order to protect our region’s citrus everyone needs to be part of the prevention process. The South Texas Citrus Alert provides free services to anyone who owns a citrus tree and is interested in protecting it from diseases and pests, and to those who identify and report the disease in their citrus trees.
“If you have an orange tree, or any citrus tree, please call us at (956) 580-8004 so we can help you take care of it,” he said. “It’s a free service, and we travel Valley wide. We set up appointments through the week, month, and we go out to the community every day.”