Could the Nation's Citrus Crop Be Wiped Out?

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The word quarantine certainly sends shivers down my spine especially after all this talk of swine flu. Even though this quarantine was directed at plants it's no joke. According to the Post and Courier, last week plant disease inspectors started going door to door in downtown Charleston, looking at backyard orange and lemon trees for signs of a disease that could wipe out the nation's citrus crop if it gets out of the city.
Citrus greening, an incurable citrus crop disease threatens to destroy the nation's citrus crop if it's allowed to spread. The first diseased plant in South Carolina was discovered April 2 in a yard in Charleston. The disease is commonly referred to as citrus greening and poses no threat to humans. While orange juice is already known for its massive carbon footprint, largely a result of nonorganic groves using a lot of nitrogen fertilizers, the risk of losing this crop entirely and having to import it from abroad would seem an even bigger problem.

An infected orange might taste bitter, but it won't hurt you, according to Christel Harden, the state's chief plant inspector. "But since nobody wants to buy half-green, bitter oranges, lemons, tangerines, limes, or kumquats, the disease could ruin the nation's citrus industry. It already has devastated citrus crops in Asia, Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and Brazil, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture."

According to the USDA, citrus greening is one of the more serious diseases in citrus. It's a bacterial disease that is primarily spread by two species of psyllid insects. Inspectors also will be checking citrus trees in Colleton and Beaufort counties. To avoid the risk don't move plants out of quarantined areas and don't buy citrus plants that have been flown in (especially from an unknown origin), buy locally.

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