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Tracking Citrus Health in the Texas Rio Grande Valley

Posted by Nohelia Lopez-Izaguirre, APHIS Public Affairs Intern in Animals Plants
Nov 07, 2022
An APHIS CHRP inspector evaluating a backyard citrus tree

Growing up in the Texas Rio Grande Valley - in the richness of Mexican-Texan culture, tradition, and food - citrus is a staple in our everyday life. But I never knew that diseases threatened citrus production. That changed this summer. As a communications intern, I had the opportunity to job shadow employees in APHIS’ Citrus Health Response Program (CHRP). CHRP is responsible for surveying and regulating invasive pests and diseases that harm citrus crops:

  • Citrus black spot (CBS)
  • Asian citrus psyllid (ACP)
  • Citrus canker (CC)
  • Huanglongbing (HLB)
  • Sweet orange scab (SOS)
  • Citrus leprosis (CiLV)
  • Citrus variegated chlorosis (CVC)

At the CHRP office in Edinburg, Texas, I met Emma Perez, Plant Health Safeguarding Specialist. “Our main goal is to prevent disease from coming and spreading into the Valley and impacting our commercial growth,” Ms. Perez stated.

Texas is the 3rd largest citrus-producing state, so CHRP is vital to protecting local plant life and preventing disruptions to the local economy. The day I went out with CHRP, two inspection teams had been dispatched to Pharr, Texas. The first team spoke to a resident with an orange tree, asking to inspect for citrus diseases. When permission was granted, plant protection and quarantine technicians and aids looked for signs of citrus diseases.

APHIS CHRP inspectors Juan Rodriguez and Eva Flores arrive to evaluate backyard citrus trees in a Pharr, Texas community

“One of the biggest obstacles is explaining the importance of preventing citrus diseases from spreading. Some members of the community can be skeptical about the government and the reason we’re requesting to inspect plants on their property,” continued Ms. Perez. CHRP asks permission before visually inspecting citrus trees on personal property. Inspectors track the information they collect to help them plan future inspections, including to re-strategize operations and develop inspection routes.

If an inspection results in suspected citrus disease symptoms, CHRP inspectors take a sample from the citrus tree, then submit it to a lab for testing and confirmation. CHRP reports confirmed citrus diseases to the Texas Department of Agriculture. The State follows-up with residents, explaining next step to treat the citrus disease.

Nobody likes losing a citrus tree, so protect your citrus –in Texas and beyond- with the following tips for citrus owners and home growers:

  • Inspect citrus plants regularly for disease and insects.
  • Report infected plants immediately.
  • Enjoy your fruit with friends and neighbors but obtain a USDA certificate to transport citrus outside of your State. Citrus Contacts by State
    APHIS CHRP’s Juan Rodriguez and Eva Flores
Category/Topic: Animals Plants