Florida Department of Agriculture officials are warning Panhandle farmers and gardeners of a highly contagious citrus tree disease that’s been found farther north in the state than has ever seen.
The department has received dozens of calls from concerned residents whose citrus crops are showing signs of citrus canker—a bacterial disease that’s easily spread by wind and rain. It causes premature fruit drop and discolored fruit and eventually causes the tree to become unproductive. Agency spokesman Mark Fagan says while there’s not much residents can do about the disease, there is one way to slow its spread.
“We would encourage homeowners, residents in the Panhandle region, to not move citrus plant material,” said Fagan.
Fagan says the disease has been discovered in Santa Rosa and Escambia Counties—a first for the Panhandle. He says it’s possible it originated downstate, where most of Florida’s citrus fruit is grown.
“Say, you pick up a tree from Aunt Mary in Brevard County and you took it and planted it in your backyard in Santa Rosa County, you can move the disease that way, because once the disease expresses itself in the form of corky-like lesions on the top and the bottom, then the bacterium is being picked up by wind-blown rain and moved about,” he added.
Fagan says while cankers are not as serious as citrus greening—another disease affecting citrus crops in Florida—he advises residents to take the bacteria seriously. Those who suspect their trees are affected by citrus canker can call the agency’s Division of Plant Industry Helpline Center at 1-888-397-1517.
For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on twitter @SaschaCordner.