- The Government is assuring citrus farmers of its continued drive to effectively manage the citrus greening disease and ensure the sustainability of the industry.
- The Ministry has been undertaking several measures, including aggressive vector control and monitoring of nurseries in order to combat the disease.
- Citrus greening or huanglongbing (yellow dragon disease), may be the most serious citrus disease in the world and is spread by the insect, Asian Citrus Psyllid.
As the citrus industry battles with the citrus greening disease, the Government is assuring of its continued drive to effectively manage the disease and ensure the sustainability of the industry.
This assurance comes from Chief Technical Director in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Dermon Spence, who noted that the Ministry has been undertaking several measures, including aggressive vector control and monitoring of nurseries in order to combat the disease.
He was speaking at the 16th annual general meeting of the Jamaica Citrus Protection Agency (JCPA) held on Tuesday, November 11, at the Tru Juice Sports Club in Bog Walk, St. Catherine.
Citrus greening or huanglongbing (yellow dragon disease), may be the most serious citrus disease in the world and is spread by the insect, Asian Citrus Psyllid. This vector was first discovered in Jamaica in 2002.
In 2009, citrus greening was confirmed in major citrus growing areas in Jamaica. Both the vector and the disease are now present island-wide.
Mr. Spence informed that following this discovery, the Ministry embarked on a US$480,000 technical co-operation programme with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to assist in area-wide management of the problem.
He said the programme, which was facilitated through the Ministry’s Research and Division and Plant Quarantine /Produce Inspection Unit, in collaboration with the JCPA, also sought to improve the capability to produce clean material in the nurseries; improve diagnostic ability; and carry out public education.
The programme also saw the establishment of two greenhouses for nursery production.
The Ministry developed an exit strategy following the FAO programme where an integrated management response programme was embarked on. The strategy saw the implementation of the FAO’s area-wide integrated management system (AIMS) in all citrus growing areas of the island. A pilot was conducted by the JCPA with support from the Rural Agricultural and Development Authority (RADA) and the Ministry’s Research and Development Division.
In the meantime, Chairman of the JCPA, Peter McConnell, said the agency is of the belief that this multi-faceted, integrated approach recommended under the FAO programme is the best strategy to manage citrus greening.
He noted that “if the industry is going to have a fighting chance of survival” it is essential that all stakeholders accept and implement this strategy. This system involves the grouping (clustering) of citrus farmers into geographic units for the collective management of the Citrus Psyllid.
“We must be reminded that both the vector and disease are well established in Jamaica, so they are here to stay. Also there is no ‘silver bullet’ cure, so we must learn to live with the disease. To be a productive industry, we must aggressively attack the problem. Until a cure or resistant variety is developed, we feel that the integrated management approach is the only solution,” he said.
He noted that this approach requires aggressive vector control, the generous use of nutritional supplements and the use of only certified citrus plants produced in covered nurseries.
The initial response to the disease was the closure of all citrus nurseries and the destruction of over 50,000 seedlings. Some farmers started to scout for and remove infected trees. Over 13,000 plants were removed in an attempt to eliminate the disease. However, the practice was discontinued in 2011.
Current records indicate that the level of infection among commercial groves and residential citrus plantings is very high, ranging between 70 and 100 per cent and crop production continues to decline.
It is estimated that the total acres under production has decreased from a high of 6,441.84 in 2007 to 4,302.79 in 2014. Not only is there a reduction in acreages but the quantity and quality of the fruit being produced is also reduced.
There is no cure for citrus greening. Pesticides may only be used on commercial groves, but never in residential areas.
The name “greening” comes from the fact that Citrus Greening Disease causes trees to produce predominantly greened (worthless) fruit, which fails to ripen. The fruits also produce a bitter-salty flavour when processed.
JCPA was set up to carry out a mandatory citrus certification programme under the Citrus Regulations in 1999. The body also provides advice and assistance to citrus growers and nurseries in areas such as plant health indexing, propagation, diagnostic laboratory tests and other citrus activities.