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Researchers warn that HLB could put an end to Spanish citrus

Ferran Garcia-Marí, researcher at the Agroforestry Institute of the Mediterranean (UPV), believes that control measures need to be enforced to prevent a hypothetical propagation in Spain of Huanglongbing (HLB), or greening disease, the world's most dangerous disease for citrus fruits. "The insect vector has already been detected in Galicia, and if the bacterium reaches Spain, the HLB could put an end to the country's citrus crops, as is already happening in Florida," assures Garcia-Marí.

Citrus producers in Florida have been suffering a severe crisis since the identification, in 2005, of the first case of HLB, a disease that has already killed millions of trees and which has forced growers to redirect a considerable share of their fruit to the production of juices, given their inability to market the oranges, lemons and grapefruits; and all of this just seven years after the vector was first detected.

The recent detection in Galicia and Portugal of the African psyllid (Triozaerytreae), one of the vectors of HLB, has raised the alarm among producers in Spain, who fear a repeat of Florida's story in our country. The HLB disease is caused by the Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus, C. L. americanus and C.L. africanus, which block or damage the phloem vessels of the plant. The trees affected show symptoms of nutrient deficiencies and loss of strength and can eventually die.

In early 2016, as an urgent measure, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment published a Royal Decree against HLB that includes a program for the control and eradication of the Triozaerytrae and a National Plan for the prevention of Diaphorinacitri and Candidatus Liberibacters pp in citrus.

The threat level of HLB in Spain and neighbouring European countries, the latest scientific advances for its control and eradication, and the possible risk of it entering through the European borders, will be some of the key topics addressed at the 'PHYTOMA International Meeting - Prospects of citrus against the new risks and phytosanitary threats', which will take place on 22 and 23 November at the Polytechnic University of Valencia (UPV).

Under the scientific direction of Dr Ferran Garcia-Marí (IAM-UPV) and the organization of Phytoma-Spain, the conference will be a meeting point for the main Experts on citrus in the Mediterranean, in an event that counts with the collaboration of the Valencian Institute of Agricultural Research (IVIA), the Polytechnic University of Valencia (UPV) and the Council of Agriculture, Environment, Climate Change and Rural Development of the Region of Valencia. Councillor Elena Cebrián Calvo will attend the inauguration of this scientific event.

With 30 presentations of high scientific value and the forecast of 400 people attending, this meeting could be the largest one, devoted to citrus health, ever held in the Mediterranean.

Source: agroinformació

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