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Strain to speak at citrus greening press conference

June 19, 2008

Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M. will speak at a Plaquemines Parish press conference Friday to discuss containment of citrus greening, a devastating citrus disease that could harm the Louisiana citrus industry.

“Citrus greening was confirmed in Orleans Parish,” Strain said. “I am going to do everything within my power to safeguard the citrus industry in Plaquemines Parish and the rest of Louisiana.”
The press conference is scheduled for 3 p.m. at Belle Chasse High School.
More than 200 citrus growers in 15 parishes comprise the state’s $6.4 million citrus industry. Plaquemines Parish is the state’s citrus leader with more than 500 acres of citrus and a citrus gross farm value of $4.1 million.
Strain said he participated in a conference call with Rebecca Bech, Deputy Administrator for APHIS’ Plant Protection and Quarantine program, Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles Bronson and Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples on Thursday to discuss treatment and containment issues.
The psyllid and citrus greening are present in Florida. The psyllid was found in Texas but citrus greening has never been confirmed.
“We know what we are up against,” Strain said. “Right now Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry horticulture and quarantine officials are aggressively working with LSU AgCenter and USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to minimize the threat of citrus greening in the state.”
Citrus greening, or huanglongbing (HLB), is a disease that can affect all citrus trees, including citrus-related ornamentals like the orange or Lakeview jasmine (Murraya species).
HLB prevents citrus fruit from ripening and ultimately kills the tree. It’s spread by grafting with diseased budwood or by the feeding habits of the Asian citrus psyllid infected with the disease.
Strain said presence of the Asian citrus psyllid, a tiny insect resembling a cicada, was confirmed in the state two weeks ago.
“We know we have the psyllid,” Strain said. “We are diligently working to establish a treatment program to contain the psyllid to prevent spread of the disease.”