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US (FL): Citrus growers warned over black spot spread

Ask any Florida citrus grower what tops the worry list right now and it's probably citrus greening disease. However, another potent threat has reared its head and there are warning being sounded that this, too, could be a big problem for the industry once it really gets started - black spot.

Brazil, the biggest citrus producer in the world, already has the fungus in abundance and the growers there would advise anyone to take the threat seriously.

Ricke Kress, president of Southern Gardens Citrus Processing Corporation said, "They're as worried about black spot as we are about greening. It's spreading through that country like wildfire. The future is in front of us. We have to face it. We have to deal with it."

recent data reveals 14 confirmed cases in Florida this season. It may not sound much, but it is an eightfold increase in just two seasons.

Indications are that the disease will spread across Florida at some point, though no one knows when, which means growers must be prepared.

"Once it's established it's there. There's no way to eradicate it. Black spot is going to spread across Florida, it may take 20,30 years. Who knows," said Jim Snively, vice president of grove operations at Southern Gardens.

Worryingly, no one knows what sort of impact the disease will have on Florida's production when it does strike. If the Brazilian experience is anything to go by growers can expect 16% premature fruit drop.

Megan Dewdley, a plant pathologist at the citrus research and education centre in Lake Alfred, said, "That's scary. That's a pretty staggering amount from drop where there's good control. There are no easy solutions to this disease. It's going to be a long, hard grind, just like greening."

There are fungicide solutions on the market, but these are starting to fail as the fungus becomes resistant to them. Currently, as Dewdley points out, there is nothing in the pipeline to replace them.

Source: www.theledger.com

Publication date: 3/27/2012


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