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Citrus farmers updated on Haunglongbing disease

Citrus farmers updated on Haunglongbing disease

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Citrus growers on the leeward side of St Vincent were updated on the management and control of Citrus Greening disease, also known as Haunglongbing, at a workshop held at the New Testament Church Hall at Sharpes Village Chateaubelair on Wednesday.{{more}}

According to Michael Delpesche of the Plant Protection and Quarantine Unit (PPQU), Wednesday’s event is the first, but there are plans to travel throughout the country to sensitize farmers and the general public about this threat to the citrus industry. Delpesche said that other forms of communication will be done including print and electronic media releases.

The PPQU, according to Delpesche, is encouraging citrus growers to report suspected cases of Haunglongbing and to practice proper field sanitation and weed management, which includes pruning, and to identify and eliminate declining plants. A biological sustainable approach is to target the nymph using abamectin plus horticulture based oils derivatives in the flushing period in August.

Fertilizer applications of NPK three times a year depending on the age of tree; fertilizers should be high in nitrogen and potassium. Application of foliar fertilizers such as Nutrex can be done once monthly. Chemical management will include drenching once a year just before the dormant period; application should be done one month after fruiting with Fastac rotated with Malathion every three weeks until flowering.

Delpesche told SEARCHLIGHT that the Ministry of Agriculture became aware of the disease in 2012 and that the first case was intercepted in Canouan in the Grenadines.

“We have to be vigilant; this most devastating disease is now widespread throughout the country and has the potential to wipe out our citrus industry”, Delpesche warned.

Niahbhinghi Elder and tree crop farmer Bongo Bones, who was at the meeting, told SEARCHLIGHT that he is very concerned about the situation as Haunglongbing has already wiped out his entire citrus cultivation.

“I am seeking some form of compensation cause I’ve been telling them about this disease since 2005 but nobody paid any attention to me,” said Bones.

Bones also said that politicians and Agriculture officials don’t listen to the small man.

“I went to Reuben Robertson when he was chief and told him that I want some form of compensation as my entire citrus plantation was depleted and he told me that I can’t get compensation as only farmers with Moko get compensation,” Bones said.

In addition to biological and chemical control and management, the PPQU hopes to introduce natural enemies to help eliminate Asian Citrus Psyllid.

Haunglongbing is caused by the Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP), a sap sucking insect and is spread by contaminated grafted material. The Psyllid can also be transported by wind, rain and humans. Haunglongbing is a virulent and fatal bacterial disease that invades the phloem and multiplies and inhibits food transport in affect trees.

Symptoms associated with Haunglongbing are twisted leaves, blotchy yellowing on leaves and pointed upright and slow chlorosis. Fruits are deformed, lopsided, sour or bitter and fall prematurely and excessively and the tree may go into complete decline; collapse and die.

The lifecycle of the of the ACP requires 15 to 47 days; the eggs are laid on the tips of growing shoots and between and near the unfolding leaves; the eggs are almond shaped and orange in colour, they then develop into instars with developed wing pads; they are light yellow to dark brown in colour. The mature insect has a yellowish-brown body with grayish- brown legs.(TY)

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