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HLB-citrus greening disease confirmed in Alabama

Asian citrus psyllid pest
HLB was found in leaf and insect samples from a residential property on Dauphin Island in Mobile County.

The feared citrus disease Huanglongbing (HLB) – a.k.a. citrus greening – has been confirmed in Alabama, according to the state’s Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI).

HLB was found in leaf and insect samples from a residential property on Dauphin Island in Mobile County. Dauphin Island is a town located on a barrier island with the same name at the Gulf of Mexico.

Federal and state officials confirmed the major citrus disease, caused by the bacterial pathogen Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus vectored by the Asian citrus psyllid pest.

The ADAI, USDA’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Customs and Border Protection will conduct a delimiting survey to determine the extent the pathogen’s spread.

If the disease is limited to only a few trees, steps will be taken to eradicate the disease. 

Meanwhile, ADAI says officials have begun the process to halt citrus plant movement from the area. Federal plant officials will seek to establish a citrus greening quarantine in Mobile County.

Alabama agriculture officials say the state intends to take action to establish a parallel quarantine. The dual action makes it possible for federal regulators to hold the quarantine only in Mobile County where the disease has been confirmed.

Florida, for decades the largest citrus-producing state for juice in the nation, was the first U.S. state where HLB was found (2005). Due to HLB-caused tree death and related factors, some estimates suggest that HLB has eliminated 75 percent of Florida’s citrus industry.

Nearly 40 HLB positive finds have been found in California, all in urban areas in residential areas with no finds in commercial citrus. Most California citrus is sold for the fresh market.

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