Travellers are being warned by the Ministry of Agriculture not to take any citrus into the island, as a result of the plant bacterial disease, Citrus Canker, which is currently affecting the citrus industries in the state of Florida, in the United States, and in the Bahamas.
Described as a serious bacterial disease of citrus, the Citrus Canker can affect oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes, tangerines, citrons and fortunellas. The disease causes scars on the leaves, stems and fruit. If affected by the disease, the fruits will prematurely fall, and there will also be a general decline in the health of the tree, which will die eventually.
Fruit symptoms of CC on
In an interview with JIS News, Chief Plant Quarantine Officer, Carol Thomas said the disease has not been found in Jamaica, and in this regard, the public is being urged to take all the necessary precautions to prevent the disease from getting into the island.
The Ministry is warning persons not to take in fruits, or tree cuttings such as bud wood, into the island as these may be infected with the disease. “It is really important that the travelling public and importers not bring in any kind of citrus or bud wood.because persons from time to time will try and smuggle in citrus,” she pointed out.
Twig symptoms. Young lesions on grapefruit stem.
“Taking even a few oranges in your hand bag from a friend’s tree in Florida could be the source of introducing this very serious disease, which could topple Jamaica’s citrus industry and cause irreparable damage to the agricultural sector,” Miss Thomas added.
Apart from the plants or fruits, the Chief Plant Quarantine Officer also noted that tools that were used on plants infected with the bacteria could also transmit the disease to other plants.
Close-up views of CC lesions on top of grapefruit leaf.
As a result, she is also urging persons to desist from bringing in tools that were used on infected plants. “Because these [bacteria] are micro-scopic organisms, they can be easily transmitted just by physical contact.as well as by the implements that were used on them,” she noted.
“For instance a knife that was used to peel an infected orange and then used to cut the stem of another citrus plant would become infected with the bacteria,” she pointed out.
Whole leaf symptoms of CC on top and bottom of key lime leaves.
Miss Thomas pointed out that the impact of the introduction of the Citrus Canker in Jamaica would be devastating to the industry, as it could totally wipe out the sector, which would ultimately affect the economy – the loss of jobs, and export earnings. Jamaica earns more than US$10 million annually from the export of citrus.
So far the Ministry has put a number of measures in place to prevent the entry of the disease into the island, including a ban on the importation of citrus into the island, confiscating and incinerating those found, and undertaking more detailed investigations of airline and cruise ship passenger baggages.
The Citrus Canker, first identified in South East Asia in 1830, found its way by the 20th Century, into other parts of the globe, such as South and Central Africa, the Middle East, New Zealand, Australia, South America and Florida. The disease was eradicated in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. However, the disease has since re-appeared in Florida and was recently confirmed in the Bahamas.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and the United States Department of Agriculture are currently engaged in what could be deemed the largest single regulatory agriculture programme to eradicate a plant disease, ever undertaken in the history of the United States.