Out with the snake, in with horse! January 31 marks the start of the Chinese New Year. Many people will be enjoying the rich cultural traditions of this holiday such as food, parades and exchanging gifts. One traditional Chinese New Year gift is citrus fruit, such as mandarin oranges and tangerines. This fruit is said to bring luck, wealth and prosperity.
However, without proper precautions citrus can also bring something else that may not be so favorable—the Asian citrus psyllid. This pest carries citrus greening disease, also known as Huanglongbing (HLB), a disease threatening the commercial citrus industry and homegrown citrus trees alike. Although it is not harmful to humans or animals, the disease is fatal for citrus trees and has no known cure.
The Asian citrus psyllid likes to feed on leaves and stems of citrus, and can travel on them when citrus is moved from place to place. Because the pest is so small, it often goes unnoticed as it spreads the disease to healthy trees.
The Asian citrus psyllid and citrus greening have caused devastation all over the world, and citrus greening is now spreading in the United States. Citrus greening disease has been detected in California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, and South Carolina, as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Millions of acres of citrus trees have already been destroyed and millions more are at risk.
The threat of this pest does not mean that the tradition of giving citrus must end. What it does mean is certain precautions should be considered while gifting citrus.
The first thing to do is always be aware of quarantines in your state. Do not move citrus trees, fruit or trimmings from these areas. Not only are you risking spreading citrus diseases by transporting citrus outside of these areas, but it's also against the law. Review the quarantine map for more information.
If you grow citrus yourself, you may wish to share your harvest. However, homegrown citrus should be kept at home. Help reduce the spread of citrus diseases by not moving your homegrown citrus fruit or plants from quarantine areas or across state lines.
If you are buying citrus fruits, or even a citrus tree, be sure to only buy from a certified vendor. Citrus plants sold in a regulated state must be sold from a certified vendor and be accompanied by a USDA certificate. Commercial fruit packers, internet shippers and roadside vendors within regulated states should be able to prove they are in compliance with the federal quarantine. Before you buy, ask the vendor if their product is in compliance. If you buy a plant that is disease-free, you'll have a much healthier and more productive tree.
To learn more, visit Save Our Citrus and follow Save Our Citrus on Facebook and Twitter.